Opinion / Zhu Yuan

Pragmatism is the way forward

By Zhu Yuan (China Daily) Updated: 2012-12-03 07:44

Pragmatism is the way forward

Pragmatism is the way forward

Transforming talkers into doers is one of the challenges the new leadership will have to tackle in the years to come

'Empty talk harms the country, hard work prospers the nation," remarked Xi Jinping, general secretary of the Communist Party Central Committee, when he and the other six members of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of CPC Central Committee visited The Road Toward Rejuvenation exhibition on Thursday. This epigram is rich in its connotations, a better understanding of which helps explain why pragmatism must be further practiced for China to realize its dream of rejuvenation.

Former general secretary Hu Jintao once used the expression zhe-teng, which literally means wasting time on meaningless things, to refer to political nonsense. Xi's remark is more explicit and broader as it can be understood to be not just referring to the past but also to the present.

When talking about the various political campaigns before 1978 and the "cultural revolution" (1966-76), it is often lamented that the country wasted a lot of time and failed to grasp the opportunities for economic development and social progress.

That was because the top authorities at the time were obsessed with the "class struggle" and waged political campaigns against the so-called alien elements. All these campaigns with ultra-leftist features were characterized by "empty talk", which plunged the entire nation into a discussion about what was proletarian in style and what was bourgeois.

The most typical empty talking was the verbal fighting between the different political organizations of the Red Guards at the beginning of the "cultural revolution" when they attacked each other by citing Mao Zedong's quotations. "We would prefer socialist grass to capitalist seedlings" was the most famous saying at the time when almost all people gave up their work to talk about the class struggle.

The many years of verbal fighting against a shadow enemy left the national economy on the verge of collapse in the late-1970s.

The reform and opening-up initiated in 1978 marked the end of the years of political empty talk and ushered in an era of pragmatism. In 1992, Deng Xiaoping said something to the effect that it is meaningless to talk about what belongs to socialism and what belongs to capitalism as long as what we do brings real benefits to the people. The discussion about socialism and capitalism at that time inherited the mantle of the empty talk that characterized the previous political campaigns.

What this nation has achieved in the past more than three decades justifies the pragmatic road this country's second generation of leaders has initiated.

However, from another perspective, the talking nonsense working style among officials, the leaders at various local levels in particular, has remained a hard nut to crack, which poses a threat to the country's efforts to realize its goal of building the country into a well-to-do society in an all-round way.

It is not unusual for a leader of a work unit to talk for several hours without the audience grasping anything substantial in what is being said. There are too many politically correct but meaningless phrases or expressions in such speeches. When it comes to practical problems, these officials usually beat about the bush by using vague or elusive expressions.

It is safe and easy to use bureaucratic cliches, which has become the way some leaders evade their responsibilities and cover up their ignorance of specific works in a particular field.

Getting addicted to bureaucratic cliches makes officials lazy and deprives them of their capability to think hard about the problems that need to be addressed with specific measures. Even on the right path and heading in the right direction, the talking nonsense working style of some officials will likely compromise what this country can achieve and delay the realization of its national dream for rejuvenation.

Xi said that the goal of building the country into a well-off society in an all-round way will not come without long-term and arduous efforts. Obviously, to transform the empty talkers among Party and government officials into pragmatic doers is among the challenges the new leadership must tackle in the years to come.

The author is a senior writer with China Daily.

(China Daily 12/03/2012 page8)

Most Viewed Today's Top News