Opinion / Op-Ed Contributors

Decoding Xi's future vision

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

Domestic Goals: values, morality, prosperity, fairness, happiness. Values: Xi's vision is to inculcate China's traditional values - "the thoughts of the ancient sages", exemplified by Confucianism - into socialist core values. ("We must take traditional Chinese culture as the base.") Morality: Derived from values, morality is described as "conscious law", and "civic morality" is characterized as needing improvement, while "paragons of morality are important banners for building public ethics". ("A gentleman takes morality as his bedrock" - a traditional virtue that Xi quotes.) Prosperity: "Common prosperity is the fundamental principle of Chinese socialism ... We will accelerate China's overall prosperity". Fairness: Because the Chinese people have always had a perception that "inequality rather than want is the cause of trouble", Xi says, China "should do a better job of promoting fairness and justice". Happiness: The Chinese Dream, Xi says, is to "bring happiness to the Chinese people", to "ensure the people greater happiness" - but, he cautions, "happiness does not fall from the sky, nor do dreams come true automatically." (In Xi's book, "values" occurs about 120 times, "morality" 24, "prosperity" 67, "fairness" 44 and "happiness" 16.)

Domestic Means: close to the people, realism, stability, reform, rule of law, combating corruption. "Close to the people" is an all-encompassing way of thinking that shapes all decisions. Realism: "I have repeatedly said that the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation can in no way be realized easily," Xi says. "While fully affirming our achievements, we should also be aware of our shortcomings." Stability: The precondition for all else, stability is a recurrent and foundational theme ("stability" occurs 125 times). Reform: Those who wonder whether Xi is a "real reformer" should read "Explanatory Notes ... Concerning Comprehensively Continuing Reform" (page 76). Examples: the market plays a "decisive role"; farmers given transactional property rights; the judicial system separate from the administrative system. Rule of Law: "A fundamental principle" and "the basic way to run the country" - the Fourth Plenary of the 18th CPC Central Committee, focusing on rule of law, is Xi's call to action. Combating corruption is a hallmark of Xi's administration, enhancing each of the five other domestic means. It is no accident that the chapter on combating corruption is positioned, significantly, between "Close Ties with the People" and "The CPC Leadership".

I bear witness to Xi's consistency. In 2006, Adam Zhu (my long-term partner) and I met privately with then-Zhejiang Party Secretary Xi. He stressed that while China should be properly proud of its successes, "achievements should not engender complacency". Xi said: "We need to assess ourselves objectively."

Global Principles. Consider five. Independence (China remains unaligned). Multi-polar world (no country dominates). One country, two systems (Hong Kong, Macao, Taiwan). Peaceful development ("We have made a solemn pledge to the whole world that we will never seek hegemony"). Multilateral affairs (cooperation with the global community). These five global principles drive China's "new model of major country relations" (primarily with the US), "neighborhood diplomacy" (Japan, Vietnam, Koreas, etc.), and "cooperation with developing countries" (such as in Africa). The Silk Road economic belt (land route and maritime) is President Xi's new initiative for multinational development.

Here's my blurb for Xi's book: "This book is a milestone, both in substance and symbol, offering openly the political philosophy of President Xi Jinping and recognizing his emergence as China's senior leader. While misunderstandings about China and its leadership abound, there is now no need to speculate about President Xi. Here is how he thinks, candidly and comprehensively." It is the pride of a patriot.

The author is an international corporate strategist and political/economics commentator. He is the author of How China's Leaders Think and a biography of former president Jiang Zemin. He gave one of the speeches at the launching ceremony for Xi Jinping: The Governance of China, at the Frankfurt Book Fair on Oct 8.

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