Win­dow on China for theWest A col­lec­tion of Xi Jin­ping’s speeches and ar­ti­cles in­tro­duces read­ers to the gov­ern­ing phi­los­o­phy of China’s lead­er­ship

China Daily (Canada) - - COMMENT -

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.

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