Opinion / Op-Ed Contributors

Decoding Xi's future vision

By Robert Lawrence Kuhn (China Daily) Updated: 2014-10-20 13:30

President Xi's new book reveals his thinking about the country's governance and maps out a path for achieving the Chinese Dream

The Governance of China, President Xi Jinping's new book, is unprecedented. Can analyzing the book elucidate Xi's thinking and illuminate China's future? Consider seven frameworks or perspectives: publishing purposes, overarching themes, content analysis, chain of developmental causation, domestic goals, domestic means and global principles.

Publishing Purposes: substance, symbol, signal. Substance means Xi's political philosophy and wide-ranging policies - organizing 79 speeches and commentaries in 18 chapters - to discern how Xi intends to realize the Chinese Dream, "the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation". Symbol means recognizing Xi's emergence as China's leader, with greater authority, confidence and support than observers had expected when he first took office two years ago. Signal means communicating Xi's way of thinking to global audiences in nine languages, an original and explicit outreach to engage the world on multiple levels.

Overarching Themes: pride, stability, responsibility, vision. Pride expresses the yearning of the Chinese people for the "great rejuvenation". Stability means maintaining the current political system (Socialism with Chinese characteristics and the Party's leadership). Responsibility means "realizing a moderately prosperous society by the centenary of the Party in 2021". Vision means "turning China into a prosperous, democratic, culturally advanced and harmonious modern socialist country by the centenary of the People's Republic of China in 2049".

Content Analysis. How does Xi impute importance to topics? By examining what's in Xi's book, can we explore what's on Xi's mind? Of the book's 18 chapters, 11 relate to domestic affairs, seven to foreign affairs; six have political relevance; six concern standards of living; and four standards of behavior. Categorizing the content, about a third is politics and people; another third on international relations; about 15 percent each on reform and development, and society and culture; and about 8 percent on national security and defense. Pervasive throughout is reform.

Chain of Developmental Causation. The Chinese Dream is founded on political stability, which enables far-reaching reform, which in turn promotes economic development, and which, when combined with rule of law and Chinese values, strengthens China's society, culture, ecology and even defense. Where is this "chain of causation" in Xi's book?

The first and last chapters affirm political stability: "Socialism with Chinese Characteristics" and "The CPC Leadership", both of which assert the Party's political primacy and thus assure social stability. "The Chinese Dream" is the second chapter, proclaiming the grand mission of national resurgence and personal well-being. Then, chapters on deepening reform and economic development, which lead to chapters on rule of law, advanced culture, social undertakings and ecological progress.

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