A U.S. public intellectual and renowned China expert, delivered a speech at the BRICS Seminar on Governance in Quanzhou of southeast China’s Fujian Province on August 17. Edited excerpts of his speech are as follow:
lobal governance is perhaps the most pressing need of our complex and often fractious world. Never before have we faced such divisive and interwoven challenges—political, economic, social, technological, ethnic and religious. Given such unprecedented global uncertainties—antiglobalization, Brexit, U.S. President Trump, regional conflicts too numerous to name— there is a great need for a new approach to global governance.
Chinese President Xi Jinping is now proposing a grand vision of global governance—stressing the strength of stability and the goal of mutual prosperity—with China playing a new role in seeking global win-win cooperation. BRICS is one platform in an increasingly complex environment of global governance. The Belt and Road Initiative provides a mechanism to facilitate development in developing countries and reverse devastating disparities in economic and social well-being.
The Four Comprehensives
President Xi’s comprehensive governance begins with his Four Comprehensives, his overarching political theory, enumerating what he contends are the four most critical categories for making the Chinese dream, his grand vision, a reality—comprehensively building a moderately prosperous society; comprehensively deepening reform; comprehensively governing the nation according to law; and comprehensively strictly governing the Party. In short, the Four Comprehensives express Xi’s approach to governance.
While foreigners often dismiss the political aphorisms of China’s leaders as simplistic sloganeering, they miss an opportunity to enrich their understanding of the realities of China. Chinese officials certainly take the Four Comprehensives seriously. I know: I have had private conversations and conducted public interviews in my focus on Xi Jinping: Governance Philosophy and Political Thought for Closer to China, my weekly television program on China Global Television Network (CGTN). Here is what I’ve found.
First is the effort to promote, at home and abroad, Xi’s way or style of governance and his high- level, integrated political thinking. But why governance? Why Four Comprehensives? And how do they relate?
Each of the Four Comprehensives has its own nature, a distinct linguistic character. Moderately prosperous society is a goal. Deepening reform is a means. Rule of law is a principle. Strict discipline of the Party is an action or state of affairs. Moreover, each has been a major policy in itself, suggested and supported by previous leaders for many years: moderately prosperous society since 2002 ( 15 years); reform since 1978 ( 39 years); rule of law since at least 1997 (20 years); discipline of the Party (in a sense) since the Party was founded in 1921.
So what’s Xi’s purpose for combining the four now? What’s the structural commonality? What’s the unifying innovation?
As I see it, the Four Comprehensives emerge as Xi’s prevailing political philosophy of governance via two linguistic devices and two pragmatic purposes. The linguistic devices are combining the four policies into a single idea, and using the same word “comprehensive” as a descriptor of each. Combining them makes the point that these four are fundamental, the basic drivers, and that if achieved, all else to realize the Chinese dream would follow. “Comprehensive” signals two notions: Each policy is facing critical challenges in the “new era” of the “new normal,” such that each must be expanded beyond its prior formulation, and Xi is making a very public commitment to each policy, such that there is now no turning back.
The pragmatic purposes are a candid compilation of experiences and assessment of current conditions and a priority to implement and act in order to achieve the dominant goal for 2020—realizing the moderately prosperous society. As less than three years remain until 2020, the Four Comprehensives highlight the deep-rooted complexity of what it will take to achieve the Chinese dream and the need for a clarifying call to action to make it happen.
A senior theorist said that the Four Comprehensives are a “systematic approach to specific actions that directly benefit the