The new volume of Xi Jinping: The Governance of China will help readers understand China’s achievements and its leadership’s motivation in times that call for more international cooperation.
One year after the centenary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) and prior to the 20th National Congress of the CPC, international decision-makers, observers and other readers are analyzing the fourth volume of Xi Jinping: The Governance of China, a compilation of over 100 speeches and writings by President Xi Jinping, from February 3, 2020 to May 10, 2022. Published in July, it includes policies, guidelines and views encompassing crucial years for China and the world against a backdrop of unseen global changes in a century. The book reflects the views of one of the world’s most influential statemen and guidelines on the past, present and future of a country that has reinforced its political, scientific, cultural, and economic ties on each continent, becoming the biggest trading partner of over 120 countries and regions.
In January, Xi spoke in Linfen in Shanxi Province, near the Yellow River, the cradle of the Chinese civilization. His speech, “Our Party’s Mission Is to Serve the People”, reaffirmed the CPC’s mission to further improve people’s lives and revitalize the countryside. China declared the victory of eliminating absolute poverty within the country in 2021 with nearly 100 million rural poor lifted out of poverty during the last decade. It’s an incredible accomplishment, which has been recognized by the United Nations, and applauded by the international community. This people-oriented approach, reflected in several speeches, is enshrined in the CPC’s Constitution and embodied in its core architecture. At the main entrance of Zhongnanhai in downtown Beijing, where the Central Committee of the CPC and the offices of the State Council, China’s cabinet, are located, stands a traditional screen wall inscribed with a slogan in Chinese, “为人民服务,” meaning “Serve the people.” This concept is the basis of understanding how China is governed in contemporary times.
Xi Jinping: The Governance of China Volume IV reinforces the point with a whole chapter titled “Public Wellbeing and Social Progress” that covers the development of China’s public health system and sustainable social security. Xi dwells on the need to reinforce the three-tiered urban-rural medical service network comprising urban communities and rural villages, border and port cities, county-level hospitals and traditional Chinese medicine hospitals. This network has contributed to tremendous improvements in people’s quality of life as part of the comprehensive five-year plans. For example, by the end of last decade, several Chinese regions were clearly closing the gap with advanced countries in life expectancy. In 2019, life expectancy in Beijing was 82 years, while in Washington, D.C. it was 78. According to the most recent data in September 2022, China overtook the United States in life expectancy. It is the outcome of the governance of a country which represents nearly one fifth of the world’s population and should be a headline globally.
When international analysts like Ian Bremmer describe the U.S. as “the most politically divided and dysfunctional of G7 countries,” perhaps we need to readjust our perspective. Currently, there are dozens of countries that are more politically functional than the U.S. Washington’s democracy, seen as a model in the West for two centuries, during which the U.S. has cyclically compared itself with other countries and criticized foreign political systems of others, seems to be dramatically cracking due to internal causes. The international arena is not exactly what it used to be and reading Xi Jinping: The Governance of China IV could be an inspiring and enriching experience.
The common prosperity concept in the volume also deserves attention. It is based on this observation: China has achieved astonishing accomplishments in its endeavors to seek national rejuvenation. In particular over the past several decades, its rapid rise in science and technology as well as many industrial sectors has significantly boosted the economy and enabled fast national growth unseen globally, even during a global pandemic. However, it is still not enough. The development remains “imbalanced and insufficient, as seen in the wide gaps in income distribution between urban and rural areas and between regions.”
By identifying income inequality as a glaring problem worldwide, Xi sees it as a preeminent issue to be addressed immediately. He sees a profound lesson in the fact that the wealth gap is widening and the middle class is shrinking in various countries, resulting in political polarization, disintegration and a surge of populism. In his view, the solution is high-quality development attainable only by promoting common prosperity. By raising urban and rural income levels and boosting human capital, the world’s most populated country can increase total factor productivity, creating the driving force for the necessary change. The common prosperity concept is mentioned in different parts of the book, particularly in the speech “Make Solid Progress Towards Common Prosperity” made in August 2021.
Xi’s personal commitment is based on his own life, an aspect that is often neglected by the Western mass media covering China. In 1969, when he was only 15, he was sent to the countryside in Shaanxi Province in northwest China, to work there with the farmers. He spent several years living in the small village of Liangjiahe on the Loess Plateau, leading countless development initiatives. At the end of the day’s labor, he would return to the primitive cave house where he stayed and slept on the hard kang, the primitive mud bed where impoverished villagers slept. Rooted in the close bond with people, Xi’s people-centered philosophy explains the government’s efforts to save people’s lives at any cost during the COVID-19 pandemic.
As in the previous volumes, Xi’s analysis is based on Marxism with Chinese characteristics. The language is clear, sometimes incorporating references to the country’s philosophical wisdom dating back 5,000 years. How does the leader of a country responsible for a third of the world’s economic growth assess the dual circulation concept launched to move forward? How does he evaluate the importance of the new revolution in science, technology and industry that is spurring a national boom in digital technologies, leading to deeper industrial integration, and enabling the service economy to flourish? What are the guiding principle and goals of high-quality Belt and Road cooperation including green and health dimensions? What is exactly the meaning of a community with a shared future for humankind? How does Xi, President of the People’s Republic of China, General Secretary of the CPC Central Committee, and Chairman of the CPC Central Military Commission, evaluate national security? The answer to these and other fundamental questions are found in the book.
In times that call for more international cooperation, Xi Jinping: The Governance of China IV can help readers understand Xi’s motivations and China’s achievements directly, without intermediaries.
AUGUSTO SOTO is director of the Dialogue with China Project.