Pres­i­dent’s mis­sion is one of cru­cial im­por­tance

China Daily (Canada) - - XI’S VISIT -

More than two years af­ter Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping took of­fice, his style of gov­er­nance has be­come clear enough to be sum­ma­rized.

Con­stant strong pres­sure to com­bat cor­rup­tion is doubtlessly the first and most im­por­tant char­ac­ter­is­tic. There was a point when peo­ple were be­com­ing des­per­ate about the ram­pant cor­rup­tion and lux­u­ri­ous spend­ing of of­fi­cials, but Xi has achieved ini­tial suc­cess in curb­ing these ills.

In­ter­ac­tion with or­di­nary peo­ple and the pro­mo­tion of so­cial jus­tice are also char­ac­ter­is­tics of his lead­er­ship. Dur­ing his in­spec­tion tours, the pres­i­dent al­ways sends the sig­nal that he stands with the peo­ple, and his main moves have been in re­sponse to calls from the peo­ple to cor­rect any wrongs that have dis­torted jus­tice.

Another es­sen­tial fea­ture is in­de­pen­dence. Nei­ther copy­ing from the West nor sim­ply con­tin­u­ing on the ex­ist­ing path, Xi has grabbed the world’s at­ten­tion with the con­cept of the Chi­nese Dream, which has its own char­ac­ter­is­tics. The term is al­ready be­ing used as the theme for his po­lit­i­cal the­ory.

He has em­braced a strong style of lead­er­ship be­cause he knows the his­tor­i­cal mis­sions he faces dur­ing his time in of­fice. The past decades of de­vel­op­ment have brought China closer to pros­per­ity, but the un­cor­rected and ac­cu­mu­lated mis­takes have ru­ined some ba­sic pil­lars of sup­port that need to be res­ur­rected.

The fact that the Com­mu­nist Party of China’s le­git­i­macy to gov­ern needs re­pair­ing due to dam­age in­flicted by cor­rup­tion has been hid­den be­hind fast growth. Po­lit­i­cal le­git­i­macy in China comes from the con­sent of the gov­erned — an ad­min­is­tra­tion with­out pop­u­lar sup­port might rule by force, but its gov­er­nance will be nei­ther sta­ble nor lon­glast­ing. The Party needs to re­gain the peo­ple’s trust and rally their sup­port.

The po­lit­i­cal cul­ture, which is al­most cor­rupt from the roots in some sec­tors, must be to­tally cleansed. The as­ton­ish­ing num­ber of cor­rupt of­fi­cials and the in­cred­i­ble amounts of money they have amassed show how se­ri­ous cor­rup­tion has been, even un­der the high anti­graft pres­sure.

It should also be noted that cor­rup­tion has al­ready harmed so­cial or­der in the coun­try, re­sult­ing in chaos and gen­eral moral de­cline. Only a clean gov­ern­ment can re­verse the trend.

China is proud of be­ing a 5,000-year-old civ­i­liza­tion, but the fail­ure in gov­er­nance has al­ready ru­ined many of its tra­di­tional val­ues. The lead­er­ship, hav­ing re­al­ized the de­struc­tive ef­fects, is at­tempt­ing to con­struct China’s mod­ern val­ues.

In his re­form plan, Xi de­clared the mar­ket would play the decisive role in al­lo­cat­ing re­sources and that rule of law will be up­held, thus de­ter­min­ing the de­vel­op­ment mode of China. A mar­ket econ­omy with rule of law — that’s the di­rec­tion for China’s re­form in the near and long term.

These prin­ci­ples are based on the ac­tual con­di­tions of China, which has not only grown from be­ing one of the poor­est na­tions in the world into the sec­ond-largest econ­omy within 35 years, but also ac­cu­mu­lated enough risks to ruin it­self within a much shorter time frame.

The root cause of the risks lies in the coun­try’s un­healthy mode of de­vel­op­ment: Re­ly­ing on cheap la­bor and low so­cial wel­fare to boost eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment, and strength­en­ing the bu­reau­cratic sys­tem to main­tain so­cial sta­bil­ity. As a re­sult, the coun­try faces one of the widest so­cial wealth gaps in the world and wide­spread com­plaints against the author­i­ties and the rich.

The past process has re­sulted in grad­ual wan­ing of peo­ple’s trust in the author­i­ties, as the author­i­ties al­ways tend to de­fend in­ter­est groups, of which they are also one. Never has the trust cri­sis been so ev­i­dent since the found­ing of the Peo­ple’s Re­pub­lic of China in 1949.

These prob­lems and risks used to be cov­ered up by the coun­try’s dou­ble-digit GDP growth. How­ever, as the de­mo­graphic div­i­dend declines and the past mode of de­vel­op­ment is no longer sus­tain­able, all these is­sues have been ex­posed.

It was amid all these crises that Xi and his team as­sumed the lead­er­ship and started the new round of re­form, which needs to solve the prob­lems with­out caus­ing any ma­jor so­cial up­heaval. Whether it will suc­ceed de­pends pri­mar­ily on whether the lead­er­ship can de­feat the re­sis­tance of in­ter­est groups and avoid mis­takes that might lead to it be­ing over­thrown.

The in­ter­est groups in­clude cor­rupt of­fi­cials and cer­tain gov­ern­ment agen­cies that fear their pow­ers are be­ing cur­tailed by the re­forms. The lead­er­ship has shown its de­ter­mi­na­tion to pro­pel re­form de­spite their op­po­si­tion.

How to main­tain the sit­u­a­tion while pro­pel­ling the re­form will be a se­vere test for the lead­er­ship’s po­lit­i­cal wis­dom.

The au­thor is vice pres­i­dent of the China So­ci­ety of Ad­min­is­tra­tive Re­form, an in­de­pen­dent think tank in Bei­jing.

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