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Profile: With popular mandate, Xi Jinping spearheads new drive to modernize China

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BEIJING : About five months after his election as general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, Xi Jinping won his third term as Chinese president at the annual session of the national legislature, which concluded on Monday.

At the first session of the 14th National People’s Congress (NPC), Xi was also elected chairman of the country’s Central Military Commission. Assuming the top posts in the Party, the state, and the armed forces, Xi is leading the country with 1.4 billion people on a new journey to modernization.

Wrapping up the session, Xi delivered a closely-watched speech to a gathering of nearly 3,000 lawmakers. “The people’s trust is my biggest motivation moving forward and is also a weighty responsibility on my shoulders,” Xi said.

Xi announced that the central task of the entire Party and all Chinese people, from this day forward to the middle of the century, is to build China into a great modern socialist country in all respects and advance national rejuvenation on all fronts.

“The relay baton has been passed on to our generation,” he said.

A decade ago, when Xi was first elected Chinese president, he expounded on the “Chinese Dream,” saying the dream is about making the country prosperous and strong, rejuvenating the nation and delivering a happy life to its people.

Modernizing China has been a persistent pursuit of the Chinese since the Opium Wars. Over the course of a century, generations of the Chinese, led by the CPC, have charted a distinctively Chinese path toward that goal.

Born in 1953, Xi started his political career as the Party chief in a small village in northwest China. From there, over the past half century, Xi worked his way up through almost every level of the Party’s hierarchy. He has amassed extensive experience and made noteworthy accomplishments throughout his career.

 

Xi was first elected to the Party’s top post in late 2012. For the first time, the position was held by a person born after the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949.

Since then, he has taken the nation on an ambitious path of revival, according to international media reports. Xi has a clear vision for China, to see it as a powerful country in the world, the reports said.

 

THE CORE

In 1969, Xi left Beijing for a small village on the Loess Plateau to live as a farmer, sharing the same fate as millions of youths who came of age during the Cultural Revolution.

For someone like Xi who grew up in Beijing, life in the countryside was extremely difficult at the beginning. Villagers often went without meat for several months. Despite the hardships, Xi looked back on this experience as the time when he truly understood the struggles of the common people and society.

This unique experience fueled Xi’s determination to always do something for the betterment of the people.

While many of his college peers opted to go abroad, Xi applied to work in a poor county called Zhengding in Hebei Province in the early 1980s.

In 2012, soon after taking office as the general secretary, Xi visited poor rural families in Hebei. In Gu Chenghu’s home, Xi sat on a heated brick bed and chatted with him.

“I have come here to check your living conditions and see what the Party’s leadership can do more for you and people like you,” Xi said.

He held up Gu’s sleeve and showed it to the officials around him, saying, “Look, his coat is worn out.”

At the time, there were around 100 million rural Chinese living under the poverty line of earning an annual income of 2,300 yuan (about 366 U.S. dollars).

In less than a year, Xi put forward the “targeted poverty alleviation” strategy, and over the span of about eight years sent 255,000 work teams and 3 million cadres to villages, providing one-on-one assistance to impoverished farmers.

Xi himself conducted over 50 inspections and research studies on poverty alleviation, which included visits to all 14 regions with high concentrations of extreme poverty.

On Feb. 25, 2021, Xi announced that absolute poverty had been eliminated in China.

China’s poverty reduction rate has been notably faster than the global average, making it the country with the largest number of people lifted out of poverty worldwide.

“If not for Xi’s personal push, poverty reduction would have been even more difficult and taken longer,” said Zeng Shoufu, who once worked as a village poverty alleviation cadre in Fujian Province.

Another challenge was corruption. Upon taking the Party’s top office in late 2012, Xi cautioned that “if corruption is allowed to spread, it will eventually lead to the collapse of the Party and the fall of the state.”

Less than a month into the job, he fired the first shot in his war against corruption. Over the course of ten years, high-ranking “tigers,” including a former member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee, were taken down.

Over 500 centrally-administered officials, most of whom were at or above the ministerial level, were investigated. Crooked officials who fled overseas were brought back through anti-corruption operations initiated by Xi.

In 2018, he announced that an “overwhelming victory” against corruption had been achieved. But the campaign did not end there. After the 20th CPC National Congress, another nearly 20 senior officials were investigated or punished for corruption.

Early this year, at the plenary session of the CPC Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, the top graft-busting agency, Xi urged a crackdown on corruption that involves both political and economic issues. He emphasized the need to prevent leading cadres from becoming spokespersons or agents of interest groups and power cliques.

The success of poverty alleviation and anti-corruption has won Xi popular support, but this is not the only reason he was unanimously elected into the top office of the Party and the state. In the past decade, many long-standing problems in the country were solved under his leadership.

China has steadily developed and become stronger overall, with an average annual economic growth of 6.2 percent over the past decade. It was more than twice the global average. Per capita GDP has doubled to over 12,000 U.S. dollars.

China’s share of the world economy has increased from 11.3 percent in 2012 to 18.5 percent at present. The output of grain has consistently been abundant.

In the past, China’s manufacturing industry was often referred to as “big but not strong.” It took a billion pairs of socks to buy a Boeing plane, some said. Today, China has developed its own large passenger aircraft, and technological advancement contributes over 60 percent to the country’s economic growth.

China’s digital economy is the second-largest in the world, and its new energy vehicle production and sales have ranked first for eight consecutive years.

Shan Zenghai, a technician at the construction machinery manufacturer XCMG, recalled how in 2017, Xi toured the company’s workshop and mounted an all-terrain crane.

“He gave us great encouragement, saying that the real economy should never be sidelined,” Shan said. “He also said the Chinese economy must transition from high-speed growth to high-quality development.”

 

During a deliberation meeting at this year’s NPC session, Shan sat down with Xi again and informed him that all the components of the crane that Xi once mounted are now manufactured in China.

“Are the chips in your company’s cranes domestically made?” Xi asked.

“Yes. All are made in China,” Shan replied.

In the past ten years, while eliminating absolute poverty, China has built the world’s largest education, social security, and medical and health care systems. China is adopting measures to provide more accessible and continuous medical and healthcare services to farmers. The life expectancy of the average Chinese increased to 78.2 years in 2021, nearly 2 years higher than that of the average American in that year.

Without Xi, China’s ecological environment protection would not have attained historic improvements, observers said. The average concentration of small particles, PM2.5, in the air has decreased for nine consecutive years in major cities, with a cumulative reduction of 57 percent. The once-common occurrence of smog enveloping the skies of northern China has now become rare.

Xi pushed for green development as he tackled pollution across the board. He announced that China aims to peak carbon emissions by 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality by 2060. He also pushed for the ratification of the Paris Agreement on climate change.

Also thanks to his efforts, China was among the first to sign the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership — the world’s largest free trade agreement — and has expanded its free trade pilot zones from one to 21. The entire island of Hainan was turned into a free trade port.

Xi is a strong advocate of the spirit of self-reliance and self-improvement. He emphasized the need to enhance the confidence and pride of being Chinese, and the importance of promoting China’s excellent traditional culture, stating that blindly following others is not the way forward.

“Are not Hollywood’s films like ‘Kung Fu Panda’ and ‘Mulan’ based on our cultural resources?” he said.

Xi’s reform measures have achieved “historical changes, systematic reshaping, and overall reconstruction” in many fields, ranging from the economic, political, cultural, social, and ecological protection systems, to national defense and the Party’s own institutions.

He made the decision to enshrine the statement of “allowing the market to play a decisive role in resource allocation and letting the government play a better role” into the Party’s documents, and led the establishment of the National Commission of Supervision, a powerful anti-corruption agency to oversee every single person in public office.

In late 2012, Xi initiated the eight-point decision on improving conduct. This is regarded as a lasting institutional solution to malaise such as squandering, indulging in pleasure, and extravagance. Through this move, Xi succeeded in curbing practices previously deemed uncontrollable.

In other aspects of institutional development, Xi oversaw the reform of the talent system to enable researchers at the forefront of science to benefit from their intellectual property rights.

A milestone CPC resolution adopted in 2021 states that the Party has affirmed Xi’s core position on the Party Central Committee and in the Party as a whole, and affirmed the guiding role of Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era.

This, according to the resolution, reflects the common will of the Party, the armed forces, and Chinese people of all ethnic groups, and is of decisive significance for advancing the cause of the Party and the country in the new era and for driving forward the historical process of national rejuvenation.

Xi considers the affirmation of his core status to be a weighty responsibility. In his words: “To honor the trust of the Party and the people, I will dedicate myself to the utmost and be willing to endure any hardship without hesitation.”

Party theorists say Xi’s sustained leadership in the Party and state apparatus provides direction, stability, and continuity for China’s development. They said this is conducive to strengthening the Party’s overall leadership and is an important manifestation of the political and institutional advantages of socialism with Chinese characteristics.

Lu Man, who is an NPC deputy and head of an agricultural cooperative in Jiangsu Province, said the unanimous vote electing Xi as the Chinese president is a major outcome of this year’s “two sessions.” Lu added that the result is what people have been hoping for and is required to advance the Party and the state’s causes.

 

From the 20th CPC National Congress to this year’s “two sessions,” a new cohort of officials have assumed positions of governance, including members and alternate members of the Party Central Committee, ministers and provincial-level Party chiefs. Xi urged them to strive diligently and avoid letting down the expectations of the people.

According to Party insiders familiar with the matter, these new leading officials “share some common traits,” including their strong abilities in terms of political judgment, comprehension, and execution.

In the meantime, the military has also completed its leadership transition, with a new Central Military Commission team and a new defense minister.

In early November, Xi visited the military’s joint operations command center and called for “comprehensively strengthening military training and preparedness.” He emphasized multiple times “the absolute leadership of the Party over the people’s military.”

According to Xi, the Party’s leadership defines the fundamental nature of Chinese modernization.

Given the immense size of the Party and the country, it is impossible to achieve anything without the authority of the CPC Central Committee and its centralized and unified leadership, as well as the conformity of the nation, Xi said.

“General Secretary Xi has the charisma to unify the whole Party. He is our backbone as the nation charges ahead on the new journey toward modernization,” said Cai Hongxing, president of Yanbian University, who is also an NPC deputy.

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