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Opinion
An Informative Read
By Jon Taylor | NO. 04 JANUARY 25, 2018
Global circulation of the book Xi Jinping: The Governance of China (Volume II) has exceeded 10 million by January 12 (XINHUA)

A little over three years ago, the State Council Information Office of China, the Party Literature Research Office of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee and the China International Publishing Group (CIPG) edited and published Xi Jinping: The Governance of China. The book received notable attention both in China and abroad.

Xi Jinping: The Governance of China (Volume II) follows up on the approach taken in Volume I by compiling 99 important speeches, answers to questions, conversations, letters, and instructions from Chinese President Xi Jinping, also General Secretary of the CPC Central Committee, from August 2014 to the end of September 2017, just before the start of the 19th CPC National Congress. Given the impact of Volume I, one should anticipate that Volume II will receive as much attention.

The second volume offers meaningful insight regarding Xi's views on policy goals such as reform and opening up, win-win diplomacy, the Belt and Road Initiative, economic globalization, anti-corruption, the fight against poverty, the Four Comprehensives, upholding and strengthening the role of the Party, and the development of Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era. It will come as no surprise to those knowledgeable about Xi and his interest in reform that the book begins with a commemoration of the 100th anniversary of Deng Xiaoping's birth.

Broken down into 17 chapters, the book's 620 pages cover themes that should be familiar to those who have an interest or knowledge of Chinese politics, economics, or diplomacy: Socialism with Chinese Characteristics and the Chinese Dream; A Moderately Prosperous Society in All Respects; Deeper Reform; Rule of Law; Governing the Party with Strict Discipline; New Development Concepts; The New Normal of Economic Development; Socialist Democracy; Cultural Confidence; The Wellbeing of the People; Beautiful China; Military Development; One Country, Two Systems; China's Diplomacy as a Major Country; Peaceful Development and Cooperation with Other Countries; The Belt and Road Initiative; A Community of Shared Future. The book also has a number of official pictures and a robust bibliography and index.

I believe that Xi Jinping: The Governance of China (Volume II) is useful and informative for a couple of reasons. First, like the first volume, it offers the reader critical knowledge on Xi's thinking about how and where China is going. Second, while the book is a collection of speeches and other official pronouncements, it provides the reader with a relatively handy reference guide that offers the reader an understanding of the thoughts of China's leader during the past three years. Such insight is important for those interested in Chinese politics and government, as well as those interested in international relations. To understand why the CPC Central Committee and the whole Party have noted the importance of Xi's core status and why the 19th CPC National Congress amended the Party Constitution to include Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era, Volume II offers important supportive material.

In a word

Why use the title The Governance of China? One would assume that Volume II, like Volume I, would, prima facie, be about governing China. That would actually be somewhat inaccurate. Point in fact, the book is as much about China's place in the world—and its prominence in the world—as it is about China's domestic and international political, economic, social, and cultural concerns.

Xi's choice of the word governance for both Volumes I and II is instructive because it conveys a general message that governance, whatever its form, is of high importance for Chinese statecraft, be it for domestic issues such as the deepening of economic reforms or for international issues such as economic globalization. The word governance originally meant control, guidance and manipulation. Its original meaning has long been overlain within political science with the word government and has mainly been used to refer to the administrative and political activities of the state. If we accept this definition of governance, then we accept that governments of all types will conduct their affairs based on their own national characteristics, will engage in decision-making, invoke and utilize authority, encourage political and social stability, are institutionally effective, have a cogent administrative structure, work to control corruption, and are accountable to those that they serve. All of these points are addressed in Xi Jinping: The Governance of China (Volume II).

As is typical of Xi's style, there are nods to Chinese history and literature. Xi's use of traditional Chinese history and culture reinforces his faith in the superiority of China's governance system and its modernization efforts. His use of a quote from the Tang Dynasty Emperor Taizong in order to make a point about the mirror of history and our understanding of how it impacts the experience of governing is quite compelling. Additionally, Xi also posits in Volume II the following thought-provoking observation: "What kind of governance system a country chooses depends on the country's historical heritage, cultural tradition, and level of economic and social development." One would accept that as fact, given how we comprehend governance theory based on the practice of public administration in China under the leadership of the CPC. Xi's observation on governance succinctly exemplifies what would become Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era during the 19th CPC National Congress.

In this respect, this book speaks to China's vigorous domestic and international aspirations by offering some theoretically and practically important points on governance theory. He implies that good governance, led by the CPC, has enhanced China's model of democratic politics, offers an institutional platform for effective governance, enhances the Party's role in public policymaking, and encourages socialist market-oriented reforms.

The book Xi Jinping:The Governance of China (Volume II) is published in Chinese and English on November 7, 2017 (WANG XIANG)

The new era

Since the 18th CPC National Congress in 2012, Xi's primary goals as CPC general secretary have been to pursue the realization of the Party's Two Centenary Goals: building a moderately prosperous society in all respects by 2020 and building a modern socialist country that is prosperous, strong, democratic, culturally advanced, and harmonious by the middle of the 21st century and fulfilling the Chinese dream of national rejuvenation. These themes were discussed in Volume I and are expanded upon by Xi in Volume II by linking these goals to governance.

When considering the issue of governance, it should be noted that while he does not directly discuss it, Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era is evident throughout the book with a number of speeches and conversations that underscore the spirit of Xi's thoughts on the Party, statecraft, and governance. Xi uses the idea of governance in Volume II to construct conceptual support for a more important task, that of reinforcing and maintaining socialist core values in the new era of Chinese development. This is essential when considering the impact of Xi's governance ideas that have been refined since Volume I in 2014.

Volume II offers the reader a sense of where and how Xi views the CPC's ability to engage in pragmatic reform based on the realities of a changing society. Under Xi, such realities have resulted in policy adjustments, which were evident during the 19th CPC National Congress when the Party recognized the change of the principal contradiction. As Xi himself notes, practices are what gave rise to the new era. Practices are, in fact, the reason why the Party changed the principal contradiction. As evidenced in Volume II, Xi's impact on the Party and the nation during the new era will have a significant impact on the Party's governance capabilities, particularly in areas such as economic reform, social harmony, state-owned enterprise reform, and Party-building, to name but a few areas.

Under the leadership of Xi Jinping, the CPC continues to seek new directions for reform and modernization. Xi Jinping: The Governance of China (Volume II) contributes to our understanding of Xi Jinping's thoughts on the CPC, China's future path of development, and the nation's policies, and responses to international concerns about China. The book offers a reference to better understand China's model of development and Socialism with Chinese Characteristics, particularly its current path led by Xi, and is necessary reading for anyone interested in knowing the president's views—and China's path to the future.

The author is Chair of the Department of Political Science at the University of St. Thomas in Houston and a professor of political science

Comments to zanjifang@bjreview.com

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