Window on China for theWest A collection of Xi Jinping’s speeches and articles introduces readers to the governing philosophy of China’s leadership
Ivisited China for the first time in 1975. Since then, great changes have taken place in China’s governance and diplomacy. Duringmy visits to China over the past decades, my admiration for the country and its 5,000year civilization has increased. The book, Xi Jinping: The Governance of China, which has just been translated into many languages, is an inspirational piece of work.
ImetMr Xi for the first time in Beijing inMay 2012. Six months later, inNovember 2012, he was elected general secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China. Throughmy observations of his two years in office, I have come to a more profound realization that during the past 40 years significant changes have taken place in the interests, concerns and perspectives of China’s leading statesmen. They have, nonetheless, adhered to the country’s traditions of governance and diplomacy.
In contrast to other ancient civilizations, such as ancient Egypt, the Chinese civilization has an uninterrupted history going back 5,000 years, and is still thriving with great vitality today. The Chinese tradition, represented by Confucianism, has held a dominant role for more than 1,000 years, which means that there has never been an established state religion imposed on the whole population. Instead, Taoism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity, and Islamism have reached out to their respective audiences in peace and harmony. There have been power struggles between lords and factions, but religion has never played a key role in these. There were times when the Central Plains was occupied by theMongolians and then the Manchurians, but they adapted their rule and conformed toHan ethnic traditions.
In the 15th century China still led the world in terms of shipbuilding, printing, and military technology, then industrialization began to transform Europe, followed closely byNorth America. In the 19th century the European powers, established their so-called foreign settlements in the country, in actions spearheaded by Britain, France, Spain and Portugal. Germany was also involved. In the 19th century China suffered temporary frustration and became poor and weak; in the 20th century it endured untold miseries inflicted by Japan’s mass aggression. Sun Yat-sen spent years trying to rid China of foreign occupation, and the Chinese people eventually gained victory under the leadership ofMao Zedong in 1949, when the country began reconstruction. Mao was without doubt the political leader of China at the time, and today’s China was built on foundations laid byMao.
ButMao also made serious mistakes, notably the “Great Leap Forward” movement in the 1950s, and the “Cultural Revolution of the Proletarians” in the 1960s. AfterMao passed away in 1976, Deng Xiaoping became the paramount leader of the nation. It was under his stewardship that China began to reform and open-up, and became integrated into the global economy. It was also under his leadership that the Chinese people found newways to prosperity.
After 35 years of rapid growth since 1978, China now ranks second in the world in terms of economic aggregate. Within a fewyears it will take first place— this expectation being based on the fact that the country and its governing body remain relatively stable. Having faith in China’s growth model, the newgeneration of Chinese leadership with President Xi Jinping at the head also needs to deal with the important, strenuous and complicated tasks brought about by the country’s high-speed economic development. By 2020 the per capita income of urban and rural residents in China will be double that of 2010.
China will continue to improve and develop socialism with Chinese characteristics, and promote modernization of the State governance system and its governing capacity, so as to lay a solid institutional foundation for the country’s development in the long run. It will promote new industrialization, informationization, urbanization and agricultural development, and encourage investment and consumption at the same time. It must also reform its financial sector. President Xi will pay special attention to problems caused by corruption, environmental pollution, illegal occupation of land, labor disputes, and threats to food safety.
Reducing smog in China’s major cities is an urgent issue. The factors contributing to the smog are complicated, and implementing control measures on different fronts requires a huge budget, which might affect power supply to the public, or their incomes. The government’s climate policy will also be part of the process. At a time when calls to curb global warming get louder, China cannot back away.
Another serious issue for China is that its rapid urbanization process is accompanied by an aging population and a national network for oldage care is imperative under the circumstances. China will also have to reconsider its one-child policy. The household registration system also calls for adjustment.
People visiting China today will notice that the country is pressing forward with reform in many areas. The rights of migrant workers are better protected, and there are larger and more successful agricultural enterprises in the market. Comparing China fromMao’s era 40 years ago to today’s China, one can see that the space for development, freedom and other civil rights has greatly expanded.
Undoubtedly, China has realized the harmonious coexistence of tradition and modernization. For 2,500 years the Chinese have honored the rational ethics of Confucianism. For at least 1,000 years until the early 20th century, China was ruled by feudal bureaucrats, and Confucianism was the governing school of thinking. After it took control of the country in 1949, the Communist Party of China swept away Confucianism. However, in today’s China, Confucianism is making a return as a philosophy that is imbedded within the Chinese minds. The interpretation of Confucian principles by President Xi shows that China is becoming ever more confident in its culture.
In a country the size of China, cohesiveness is central. But placing one’s hopes on nationalism can backfire, as this will probably lead to crisis or even war, while the Chinese civilization, with its history and substance, will do a better job at boosting the confidence and purposefulness of the Chinese. During the 5,000-year course of Chinese culture, there has rarely been any trace of imperialist thinking, and China has always honored peace above all else. A good example of this is that according to Chinese historical records General ZhengHe, the 15th-century Chinese mariner and explorer, did not take advantage of his fleet’s military superiority when visiting foreign countries.
AfterWorldWar II theWestern European countries gradually adopted a more rational attitude towards China. Over time the continents of Europe and Asia became closer in economic fields, which was a positive development. The European Union is now China’s biggest trading partner, and China is the secondlargest partner of the EU. China-Germany relations are also at their strongest ever.
It is amatter of regret for me though, that the Chinese leadership has always had a better understanding of theWest than vice versa. The publishing of Xi Jinping: The Governance of China represents a positive attempt to change the status quo. The book allows foreign readers to understand the philosophy adopted by China’s leadership, and the strategic guidelines on which direction China’s development is heading. As such, it offers the world a better understanding of China’s development, especially its policies on governance and diplomacy. It is President Xi’s hope that China realizes the Chinese Dream of the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation, and for this China must find its own path and once again become a world power. A book like this will help foreign readers to gain a better and more objective understanding of China from historical and other perspectives.
TheWest often finds it hard to suppress the impulse to act as a lecturer with regard to China and its leaders, which usually results in failure stemming from ignorance and arrogance. TheWest needs to apply more common sense, abandon its condescending attitude and let fair play apply. The author, the former chancellor of Germany, is commenting on the book Xi Jinping: The Governance of China.