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Wednesday, December 19, 2018, 11:22
Xi Jinping: The man leading country's reform into new era
By Xinhua
Wednesday, December 19, 2018, 11:22 By Xinhua

President Xi Jinping talks with Yuan Longping (third right) and other agricultural experts at the Nanfan Scientific and Research Breeding Base in Sanya, Hainan province, in April. (XIE HUANCHI / XINHUA)

Wang Jun is a deputy editor of the book A Study of Xi Jinping Thought on Reform and Opening-up.

"In a real sense, Xi Jingping comes from a reformer family. More important, Xi is deeply committed to reform," said Robert Kuhn, a leading expert on China from the US and chairman of the Kuhn Foundation

Documents are piled high upon his desk, the result of endless hours of Wang and his team collecting and collating information and research materials in support of the tome.

"Xi Jinping is a man wholeheartedly devoted to reform and openingup," said Wang, who is also president of the Guangdong Academy of Social Sciences.

This year, China celebrates the 40th anniversary of reform and opening-up, a policy launched by late leader Deng Xiaoping and now being carried forward by Xi.

In late October, Xi went to Guangdong province, during which time he visited a reform-themed exhibition at the foot of Lotus Mountain in Shenzhen, spending more than an hour inside the local museum.

Xi paused in front of a large painting.

It was a morning rush hour scene of the city in the 1980s. A giant poster stood tall before the Shekou Industrial Zone to constantly remind the city's early builders to seize the moment and strive for economic miracles.

It was not the first time Xi had visited Shenzhen, which was a prominent testing ground for China's reform and opening-up.

"We've come to Shenzhen, Guangdong, again as we want to declare to the world that China will never drag its feet on reform and opening-up! China is certain to show the world impressive new achievements in the next 40 years!" Xi said.

Six years ago, when Xi was elected general secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, reform had entered what many people called a "deepwater" zone. The CPC faced arduous challenges in reform, some foreign media claimed at the time.

Xi has withstood the pressure and led China to achieve so much, Wang said.

The Chinese economy is being transformed from fast growth to high-quality development. In 2017, growth picked up for the first time in six years, reaching 6.9 percent, far above the 3.7 percent global economic growth.

Over the past six years, over 70 million new jobs have been created, more than the current population of the United Kingdom. The size of the Chinese middle-income population has swelled to 400 million, constituting a huge consumer market.

Overseas media called Xi "a farsighted reformer" and "a serious reformer who built a unique path for China's future", whose clear vision for reform "has inspired the nation".

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Determined to reform

When China began reform and opening-up in 1978, Xi was studying chemical engineering at Tsinghua University in Beijing. His father, Xi Zhongxun, was then the Party chief of Guangdong province.

The elder Xi had high hopes for reform. He sought Deng's permission for "taking the first step" to set up a special economic zone that would break new ground for reform.

The father's courage and sense of mission left a deep impression on the son.

In the early 1980s, as Xi senior was promoted to Beijing, Xi Jinping was sent to work in Zhengding county, Hebei province. He began his reform experiments there, starting with the rural land contract trial, being the first in Hebei to adopt this practice, already tested in southern provinces.

As the county Party chief, Xi already knew how hard it was to press ahead with reforms. He was critical of the "middle-level obstruction" issue and solved it by appointing willing and competent cadres to push forward reforms.

Xi's reputation as a reformer was reinforced as he advanced his political career. In Ningde, Xiamen and Fuzhou in Fujian province, Zhejiang province and in Shanghai, he kickstarted innovative reform strategies to tackle different sorts of challenges.

"In a real sense, Xi comes from a reformer family. More important, Xi is deeply committed to reform," said Robert Kuhn, a leading expert on China from the United States and chairman of the Kuhn Foundation, adding that when they met in 2005 and 2006, Xi spoke a lot on the importance of "reform in all facets."

Shi Zhihong, a former deputy director of the Policy Research Office of the CPC Central Committee, said: "Xi's reform is derived from his experience. He knew that the rigid old paths would lead nowhere, and reform was a must."

In 2012, reflecting on China's reform cause, Xi spoke highly of Deng. "If there were no Deng, who guided our Party to make the historic decision to reform and open up, we couldn't have achieved this much," Xi said.

"Reform and opening-up is a great awakening of our Party, and it gave rise to great theoretical and practical innovations," he added.

Xi's thinking and practices of reform in provinces have been compiled into books, from which observers say one can trace the roots of China's comprehensive deepening reform that is being rolled out in the new era.

'Fifth Modernization'

On Nov 15, 2012, Xi met the media right after being elected general secretary of the CPC Central Committee. He spoke of the need to adhere to reform and opening-up to continue liberating social productive forces, resolve people's difficulties in life and work and stay committed to the path of common prosperity.

At the moment, Xi's resolve to carry on reform could not be more obvious. But Xi knew how hard it would be. All low-lying fruits have been picked, what is left are hard bones, he said.

People following Xi in his reforms need to be brave enough to cross hurdles in thinking and break through the blockade of vested interest.

Xi went to Guangdong on his first domestic inspection tour after assuming the Party's top post. It was not by coincidence that in 1992 Deng visited Guangdong on his now well-known "southern tour." Deng's talks during the tour were instrumental in advancing reform and opening-up.

On his 2012 visit, Xi paid tribute to Deng's bronze statue. "Reform and opening-up is a make-or-break move that decides China's destiny," Xi said. "There is no pause or backtrack."

The Financial Times said, "Mr Xi is hardly the first Chinese leader to talk about the need for reform. But the tone of the pronouncements emerging from his weekend trip has been more forceful than those employed by past leaders."

For Xi, reform must be carried on along the path of socialism with Chinese characteristics. Neither the old path nor the detour could work.

Xi insisted that reform should suit China's own needs for change, and China would not reform to make others happy. "Only the wearer knows whether the shoes fit or not," he said.

The overall goal of deepening reform is to improve and develop the system of socialism with Chinese characteristics and modernize China's system and capacity for governance.

This overarching objective is described by observers as China's "Fifth Modernization" drive.

According to Xi, reform must balance several pairs of relations: between mind emancipation and truth-seeking; overall advancement and breakthroughs in key areas; top-level design and crossing the river by feeling the stones.

He Yiting, vice-president of the Party School of the CPC Central Committee, said Xi's thought on reform has enriched and developed the theory of socialism with Chinese characteristics.

Zheng Yongnian, director of the East Asian Institute at the National University of Singapore, said Xi answered the questions related to what to change, how to change in the new round of reform and who will implement it.

In November 2013, Xi presided over the third plenary session of the 18th CPC Central Committee that issued an extensive reform plan and a seven-year implementation timetable.

China's deepening reform in all areas has caught the world's attention. Some overseas media said the reform gave a big impetus to China's lasting and inspiring rise.

Since then, the successive Party plenums have all stressed deepening reform, which constitutes a prominent fixture in Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era.

Xi has become the leader in China's new round of reform and opening-up.

Lead by action

After the third plenary session of the 18th CPC Central Committee, Xi served as the head of a leading group on deepening overall reform. When it was changed to a committee, he remained as the chair.

In the meantime, he also chairs a number of high-level committees and commissions on areas such as law-based governance, foreign affairs, cybersecurity and informatization.

By heading these groups, Xi can have face-to-face discussions with people working in different areas and better learn about actual situations.

Xi went through each version of major reform documents, added his personal insights and pushed for major progress.

Take the market's role as an example. In 2013, the Party decided to let the market play a "decisive" role in allocating resources. It sent a strong signal of policy adjustment as the original wording-"basic"-had remained unchanged since 1992.

When drafting the change, some people said it was still too early to make such a big leap. It was Xi who decided to make the change.

"Many of the major reforms would not have been possible if it weren't Xi," said an academic who was involved in drafting the document.

Xi led reform on multiple fronts to achieve breakthroughs: the gaps between urban and rural populations have been narrowed, the two-child policy initiated and pushed to yield results, splurging on government bills curbed, and vested interests broken up.

He constantly called on officials to have the perseverance to hammer away at obstacles until a task is done, and make concrete, meticulous and effective efforts on reform.

Between late 2012 and late 2017, Xi made 50 domestic inspection tours, in which he researched and pushed for reform.

The reform progress encompasses an expansive scope of fields.

In the economy, he made the judgment of new normal, initiated supply-side structural reform and drew a clear line between the government and the market.

In science, he set the goal of turning China into one of the world's science centers and an innovation high ground.

He led the anti-corruption fight to form a crushing tide and has won a sweeping victory.

He launched a major institutional reform to reshape Party and state organs, including the establishment of the National Supervisory Commission and the Commission for Law-based Governance of the CPC Central Committee.

Reform progress is reported on other fronts: people have a stronger cultural confidence and sense of fulfillment; environmental protection systems have been improved; and the armed forces have been reshaped.

In the five years since late 2012, more than 1,500 reform measures have been issued. Reform picked up pace after the 19th CPC National Congress in late 2017.

In his 2018 New Year speech, Xi called on the Chinese people to "cut paths through mountains and build bridges across rivers" to advance reform.

Wang, the book author, said Xi has made breakthroughs in a number of tough and stalemated issues.

Kuhn said, "Xi has been and is a remarkably comprehensive reformer, whose reforms are broader in scope than those of prior generations."

For the people

In April, Xi told visiting UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres that "everything we do is for people's happiness and national rejuvenation and to seek common ground for the world."

Xi has been stressing that reform should focus on what the people care about and expect the most. The aim, he says, is to give the people a stronger sense of fulfillment.

That may be felt more directly from the rise in earnings. The average income of Chinese grew by 7.4 percent annually over the past six years, eclipsing GDP growth.

In October, wage earners hailed personal income tax reform, which exempts those who earn less than 5,000 yuan (US$725) a month.

Many migrant workers also made it to the country's expanding middle-income group.

Zou Bin is one of those who benefit from reform. He rose from laying bricks at construction sites to heading a team in the Fortune 500 company China Construction Group as a project manager.

This year, Zou started serving as a deputy to the National People's Congress, the top legislature. His first legislative proposal was, not surprisingly, about deepening construction labor reforms.

Poverty reduction is another milestone. In the past six years, about 70 million rural people have been lifted above the poverty line.

William Jones, Washington bureau chief of the Executive Intelligence Review news magazine, said ending poverty had long been regarded as a major task for humanity, but until recently was seen as a Utopian dream.

"With China, that dream is now becoming a reality," he said.

Under Xi's lead, China's social security network has expanded, with basic medical insurance covering 1.3 billion people and old-age social insurance covering more than 900 million.

This summer, a domestic film shot to box office stardom. Dying to Survive tells the fictional story of a shopkeeper who illegally imports cheap Indian drugs and sells them to cancer patients in China.

The blockbuster touched a public sore point of costly drugs. But fortunately, the issue is being addressed.

Policies have been introduced to exempt import tariffs on many cancer drugs, and efforts are ongoing to bring more life-saving medicines into the medical insurance program.

President Xi Jinping attends the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation CEO Summit in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, last month. (HUANG JINGWEN / XINHUA)

Xi's reform also aims to nurture a great environment to conduct business.

The World Bank Group said in its annual Doing Business Report that China advanced to a global ranking of 46th this year, up from 78th last year, as the country implemented the largest number of reforms in the East Asia and Pacific region.

The 2018 China Business Report by the American Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai also found that 83 percent of respondents in the manufacturing sector and 81 percent in retail achieved profit, while 61.6 percent of companies expected to increase their China investment in 2018.

Private sectors in China have entered a new phase of development.

In 2018, a total of 28 Chinese private companies were listed on the Fortune 500, compared with a lone company in 2010.

Connecting the world

China's reform has benefited the world. China contributed to global growth by an annual average of 18.4 percent in the past 40 years, second only to the US, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.

In 2017, China accounted for 27.8 percent of global economic growth, more than that of the United States and Japan combined.

CRRC Corp, the world's leading supplier of rail transit equipment, has improved infrastructure and brought jobs to more than 100 countries and regions since it was founded three years ago.

"President Xi visited our workshop in 2015, asking us to speed up innovation and create a brand for 'made-in-China' products, which has promoted our modern enterprise system reform and CRRC's integration with the global economy," a CRRC executive said.

Facing mounting protectionism and a stagnant world economy, Xi proposed to foster a new type of international relations featuring win-win cooperation, and follow the principle of achieving shared growth through discussion and collaboration in engaging in global governance.

An important feature of Xi's reform is the integration of promoting domestic reform with the participation of global governance reform, Shi said.

Xi's proposition of building a community with a shared future for humanity reflects the pursuit of common values, Shi added.

When Xi was governor of East China's Fujian province 18 years ago, he pushed for a demonstration project to help Eastern Highland Province in Papua New Guinea with Juncao and dry-land rice planting.

Juncao technology cultivates edible and medicinal mushrooms from special wild grass so that trees do not need to be cut for mushroom growing. The technology has brought the hope of poverty eradication across the globe.

The success of Juncao epitomizes the advancement of the Belt and Road Initiative, proposed by Xi to promote a shared prosperity of humanity by cooperation on trade and infrastructure. So far, more than 140 countries and international organizations have signed agreements with China to jointly build the BRI.

Ecological degradation is a key global challenge. Xi attended the UN climate change conference in Paris in November 2015. China was one of the first countries to sign the Paris agreement on climate change. Xi personally handed over China's instruments of joining the Paris agreement to then UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in September 2016.

In the past six years, China has kept its promise to protect the Earth through deepening domestic reforms, including the implementation of 10 air pollution prevention and control measures, the promotion of a river chief system and introduction of a national park mechanism. Many of the reforms were initiated by Xi.

Xi brought China's opening up to a new level. He designed and pushed forward the opening of the world's first import-themed national-level expo. At the China International Import Expo, he reiterated opposition to trade protectionism and commitment to an open world economy.

The expo, held in Shanghai in November, was attended by over 3,600 companies, including nearly 180 from the US. Agreements on intended one-year purchases of goods and services were valued at US$57.83 billion.

China announced a series of measures to further open up its economy, including broadening market access, easing foreign equity restrictions, lowering automobile import tariffs and increasing imports. The number of free trade zones has risen to 12 in five years.

"Openness brings progress, while seclusion leads to backwardness," Xi said.

Wang said Xi led China to be more involved in international economic cooperation, turning the country into a more mature modern market economy.

On the way

Geoff Raby wrote in his column in the Australian Financial Review: "Xi has transformed China at an astonishing pace. At over US$8,000 per capita, China is now at the higher end of the World Bank's middle-income economy range, and some 40 percent of that has been added during Xi's tenure.

"This is the new order in Asia. It is no longer emerging, it has arrived," he said.

The People's Republic of China will celebrate its 70th anniversary next year. The Chinese nation with a history of humiliation has stood up, grown rich and is becoming strong.

Xi's reform has laid a firm foundation for the Chinese nation's rejuvenation. It will be the first time in human history that a country of more than 1 billion people marches into modernization as a whole.

China's reform has inspired the world: developing countries can walk a new path to modernization that is different from the West. It breaks the "end of history" and "Western-centered" mentalities.

The year 2018 also marks the 200th anniversary of Karl Marx's birth. China's successful practice has injected new vitality into the classic theory named after him.

What Xi aims to develop is a model of how a rising country can avoid confrontation with an established one. It will show that different civilizations can enrich exchanges and co-exist peacefully.

Reform is still on the way. It is no easy task to change the world's biggest developing country. China's per capita GDP has surpassed US$8,000, yet is far from the US$57,000 in the US.

READ MORE: Xi urges HK, Macao to embrace nation's reform, opening-up

China is still facing an unbalanced industrial structure, weak innovation and financial risks.

Xi has many challenges ahead. With great courage, he is ready to lead the Party and the country to forge ahead with reform.

"A lot of progress has been made over the past few years," Xi said. "But much can still be achieved as we embark on the new journey."

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