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China’s Governance: Reaching Out Beyond the Borders

Text by Martin Albrow

A man buys the first, second and third volumes of Xi Jinping: The Governance of China at Eastwind Books & Arts in San Francisco, California. The first batch of the third volume of Xi Jinping: The Governance of China has been distributed to more than 70 countries and regions around the world, entering local bookstores and selling directly to readers. Courtesy of China International Book Trading Corporation

There were many lessons for the whole world, and not just for China, conveyed in the first two volumes of Xi Jinping: The Governance of China. This was the main point of the speeches I made when it was my privilege to speak at the launch of their English versions in London in 2014 and 2018, respectively.

It was the choice of governance for the title that signaled the desire to reach out beyond China’s borders. At the same time it carried an invitation to the diversity of the world’s peoples. Governance is not government. It is the order that is generated out of the popular desire to lead a full life in harmony with one’s neighbors.

Necessarily then the governance of China must embrace peace and cooperation with the rest of the world, and in September 2020, we welcomed the added strength that the third volume of Xi Jinping: The Governance of China gives to that message. Xi’s personal formulation of that idea, a community with a shared future for humanity, with which he concluded Volume II, now has the added emphasis of a larger section of extracts from nine speeches in this volume.

In them the scope of the idea is further expanded by speaking of that community as “global.” Yet its diversity is emphasized at the same time by pointing to the variety of shared futures of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, among BRICS countries, between China and Africa, among Asian countries, and in specific sectors like the economy and maritime relations. The globe then is not a straitjacket; it is a field for a multitude of different endeavors.

Xi endorses rule-based global governance and emphasizes that it must be based on consultation and cooperation between all the peoples. He therefore asks for more democratic rule making in the multilateralism of the United Nations. At the same time the future of the world is not safeguarded by rules alone.

What is fundamental for the human future is the creative cooperation of the world’s peoples in battling poverty and diseases, safeguarding the environment and providing the prosperity that is the basis for both personal and collective development. It is particularly significant that the section on the shared future is followed by one on the Belt and Road Initiative. Deeds speak louder than words.

Yet, when all is said and done, the book series is directed towards the Chinese people, and in particular to the Communist Party of China (CPC). That is emphasized this year by the devotion of the final section to the self-reform of the CPC. Yet, for an outside observer like me and for all foreigners, this is immensely informative and deserves close attention since China’s leadership in this century invites the rest of the world to become familiar with its unique features.

For me the very first of Xi’s volumes highlighted a special feature of Chinese governance. It represented the distillation of ideas from deep in Chinese history and culture linked to those of modern Marxist socialism. “It demonstrates how much we should value systematic thought in political leadership,” I wrote. The same thought occurs to me repeatedly in reading Xi’s addresses to the Party.

He begins with its founding and history as the inspiration for the present and then turns to the requirements for self-reform, rooting out the “four malfeasances”—formalism, bureaucratism, hedonism and extravagance. These all hinder a focus on the practical tasks of delivering socialism. But this emphasis on practice must be underpinned by familiarity with the ideas of socialism with Chinese characteristics. Self-reform is then an ongoing process of practice and reflection.

Xi moves back and forth between pairs of ideas that are complementary and dynamic, between ideals and today’s realities, between discipline and rejuvenation, integrity and innovative thinking, leadership and serving the people. The sound is not of the relentless drumming of a machine, but of the expanding repertoire of an accomplished orchestra. It’s a performance that aims to benefit the people of China, uplift their spirit and provide for their long-term rejuvenation.

The combination of continuing engagement with ideas and involvement in the practical demands of a shared future for humanity makes the Chinese regime the most coherent and far-seeing in the world today. It has proved itself in sharing its progress with its own people. The task for the future is to share it with the people in other parts of the world. The third volume of Xi Jinping: The Governance of China provides the early indications of that direction.

The author is a British sociologist based in London, UK. He is the author of China’s Role in a Shared Human Future.

(This content is provided by Beijing-based China Pictorial.)

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