Xi’s Ambitious Report to China’s Congress:
THE KING’S SPEECH*
Xi’s Revolution Will be Televised
Xi’s speech is a huge deal.. It suggests that Socialism with Chinese Characteristics is a viable counter-model to the presumption of western liberal democracy and Capitalism. In a sense, what Xi is setting up here is not only a clash of civilisation and values, but one of political and economic systems. Orville Schell.
Xi Jinping’s report to the recent Party Congress gave us a glimpse of China’s timeline through 2050. The last time a leader laid out such ambitious, long term goals was 1979, when Deng Xiaoping set 2020 as the deadline for a xiaokang society, in which no one is poor and everyone is receiving an education, has paid employment, more than enough food and clothing, access to medical services, old-age support, a home and a comfortable life.
On June 1, 2021, the anniversary of the founding of the Party, Xi will announce the fulfilment of Deng’s vision and by that date China will have no homeless people, near-zero poverty, universal home ownership, low crime, universal medical insurance, rapidly rising longevity and urban families with net worths twice ours. Incomes are doubling every decade, inequality is dropping fast, university education is free and China leads the world in every sustainable technology.
China will lead by example, not threat or rhetoric and Xi’s announcement will signal China’s assumption of moral leadership of the world because, as Confucius observed, “The virtue of leaders is like the wind, while that of followers is like the grass: when the wind blows over it the grass will bend in its direction”.
There’ll surely be some self congratulation in 2021, of course, but Xi will focus on China’s next great challenge, becoming a radically egalitarian, dàtóng society:
Now to have states, families, and selves is to allow each individual to maintain a sphere of selfishness. This infracts utterly the Universal Principle, gongli, and impedes progress..
Therefore, not only states should be abolished, so that there would be no more struggle between the strong and the weak. Families should also be done away with so that there would no longer be inequality of love and affection among men and, finally, selfishness itself should be banished, so that goods and services would not be used for private ends..
The only true way is sharing the world in common by all, tienxia weigong.. To share in common is to treat each and every one alike. There should be no distinction between high and low, no discrepancy between rich and poor, no segregation of human races, no inequality between sexes.. All should be educated and supported with the common property; none should depend on private possession.. This is the way of the Great Community, dàtóng. – Kang Youwei, Liyun Zhu.
This was always Mao’s goal–he memorized the entire Liyun Zhu–and every leader since has reiterated it (Taiwan’s anthem urges citizens to ‘strive to build dàtóng’) and, when he talks to the Big Family in 2021, Xi will encourage everyone to demonstrate the same enthusiasm for dàtóng as they did for Deng’s goal of getting rich.
His colleagues are already spruiking for for dàtóng’. Afterwards, Foreign Minister Wang Yi, a popular favorite for his effortless recall of classical poetry, told the Congress, “Based on our cultural traditions, the Chinese nation advocates a dàtóng world in which all human beings belong to a big family, a world that aims to solve the global challenges facing our planet and reflects the universal expectation of most countries and conforms to the common interests of the international community”.
Unlike Deng’s goal of material prosperity, dàtóng will require not only government officials’ participation, but a much higher level of moral maturity and social responsibility from every Chinese, though Xi is in a good position to ask. Xi earned more trust and credibility at home and prestige abroad during 35 years in government than anyone since Mao and, like Mao, has never had a serious rival because of his unique endowments:
- Xi’s father, a much-loved Revolutionary Immortal, advised him until his death in 2002.
- His personal morality is so uncommon that Lee Kwan Yew called him ‘a Chinese Mandela’.
- His first job after earning a chemical engineering degree was Assistant to the Secretary of Defense.
- His stellar, 30-year record solving environmental, corruption, transparency and government oversight problems across China;
- His combination of glamor–his wife is the most famous woman in China–and experience.
- His execution of highly visible, difficult assignments: cleaning up Shanghai, an ancient cesspit of corruption (it’s still clean), and staging the greatest Olympic Games ever.
- His accomplishments in his first term–from anti-corruption to science and technology to security–are probably greater than the achievements of all Western leaders combined, for the past twenty years.
The ‘Core Leader’ title is merely the Party acknowledging that they see what every Chinese sees: Xi is worth listening to.
Xi has already mentioned two intermediate goals. The first, socialist modernization by 2035, means narrowing the wealth gap and cleaning up the environment. Already, according to Gallup, urban poverty has disappeared, ninety-seven percent of poor people own their homes and food insecurity is a fraction of America’s. China’s wealth gap never widened as much as America’s and the elimination of poverty in 2020 will put it within striking distance of socialist France:
Poor people’s incomes are improving rapidly and Xi promised to double them by 2020:
And China’s environment is healing. Though the economy grew eighteenfold between 1980-2010, energy consumption grew only fivefold–a 70% decline in energy intensity per unit of GDP–and is on track to fall a further 15% by 2020. China leads the world in research, development and deployment of all sustainable energies and, as Stanford’s Professor Gretchen Daily says, “China has gone further than any other country–as strange as that sounds given all the devastation that we read about on the environment front there. In the face of deepening environmental crisis, China has eagerly incorporated science into its environmental program and funded far-reaching efforts that could serve as models for other countries and become very ambitious and innovative in its new conservation science and policies and has implemented them on a breathtaking scale”.
His 2049 goal (the PRC was founded in 1949) is a ‘fully developed nation in which the Chinese people enjoy common property and China’s spiritual development stands high within the family of nations’. Along the way, as Nobelist Robert Fogel predicted in 2010, “Her per capita income will hit $85,000–more than double the forecast for the European Union–and her share of global GDP, 40 percent, will dwarf that of the United States. That is what economic hegemony will look like”.
China is already ahead of Fogel’s schedule, suggesting that, economically, scientifically, technologically and even militarily, she will soon lead the world as no country in history has ever done and, if Xi gets his way, will assume leadership peacefully. Xi is aiming for moral leadership and, in his report, he cautioned, “The great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation is no walk in the park or mere drum-beating and gong-clanging. The whole Party must be prepared to make ever more difficult and harder efforts. To achieve great dreams there must be a great struggle”.
Dàtóng in only four generations would be a stretch, even for people addicted to stretch goals. There’ll be some foot-dragging, whining and complaining because it implies a cultural revolution to mobilize not just the ten million civil servants and ninety-million Party members–but the enthusiastic participation of at least a third of the population. The big test for Xi will be, how good is he at mobilizing the masses?
Only one man, Mao, has ever done peacetime mass mobilization well and it was Mao who mobilized Xi himself and sent him to grow up in the countryside. Since infancy, Xi was around men who moved millions of soldiers, every day, for decades, under fire, and fed them while maintaining the farmers’ loyalty and taking nothing for themselves so it’s unsurprising that, in his first term, Xi effectively mobilized the civil service, raised their productivity and lowered their operating costs:
Paradoxically, if China achieves dàtóng in 2120, the Party will have served its purpose and will disappear. In other words, he proposes to devote the Party’s second century to putting itself out of business because, as Mao predicted, “Like a man, a political party has its childhood, youth, manhood and old age. The Communist Party of China is no longer a child or a lad in his teens but has become an adult. When a man reaches old age, he will die; the same is true of a party…For the working class, the laboring people and the Communist Party the question is not one of being overthrown, but of working hard to create the conditions in which classes, state power and political parties will die out very naturally and mankind will enter the realm of Great Harmony, dàtóng”.
* “He’s a powerful man,” President Trump said. “Now some people might call him the King of China – but he’s called president”.