The world has yet to produce a comprehensive English-language biography of Chinese President Xi Jinping, who appeared at a critical moment in the 40-year period of China's reform and opening up when its startling economic growth must seek new paths to continue its course. Already, Xi has shown himself to be a man prepared to do what is needed to bring the Chinese economy—and with it the world—onto a new development path.
The publication by the Foreign Languages Press of a compilation of Xi's speeches and other works, under the English title Xi Jinping: The Governance of China, while not a biography, gives some insight into the mind of the man and his intentions as the leader of the most populous nation in the world.
Xi often sprinkles his comments with sayings from Confucius, Mencius and other ancient Chinese thinkers, which he has also incorporated into his own mental picture. To him, this represents the real greatness of China, instilling pride in the younger generation and providing the basis for a dialogue of civilizations, which he has called for in his pursuit of helping countries, both near and far, to achieve their own prosperity and greatness.
This general philosophical approach is no better symbolized than in the proposal known as the Belt and Road Initiative. China's emergence over the last few decades as a major world power, breaking the post-Cold War monopoly of the U.S. as the chief arbiter of international disputes, has unsettled many countries.
Xi has made it very clear that he understands the nature of these fears. Speaking to the Körber Foundation in Berlin on March 28, 2014, Xi said, "As China continues to grow, some people have started to worry. Some take a dark view of China and assume that it will inevitably become a threat as it develops further. They even portray China as being the terrifying Mephisto who will someday suck the soul of the world. Such absurdity couldn't be more ridiculous, yet some people, regrettably, never tire of preaching it. This shows that prejudice is indeed hard to overcome. A review of human history shows that what keeps people apart are not mountains, rivers or oceans, but lack of mutual understanding."
The Belt and Road Initiative aims to provide needed infrastructure investment to surrounding countries and help bring the prosperity which China has achieved to more countries in the region and the world. While the initiative was originally focused on China's neighbors in Central Asia and Southeast Asia, it has, through the BRICS cooperation mechanism, become a perspective that reaches further, to Africa, the Middle East and Latin America.
Speaking at Kazakhstan's Nazarbayev University when he proposed the Silk Road Economic Belt in 2013, Xi underlined the broader cultural importance of the initiative. "Throughout the millennia, the peoples of various countries along the ancient Silk Road have written a chapter of friendship that has been passed on to this very day. More than 2,000 years of exchanges demonstrate that on the basis of unity, mutual trust, equality, inclusiveness, mutual learning and mutually beneficial cooperation, countries of different races, beliefs and cultural backgrounds are fully able to share peace and development. This is the valuable inspiration we have drawn from the ancient Silk Road."
The new Silk Road, while emphasizing the connectivity of modern technology between nations, also hearkens back to the spirit of the ancient Silk Road, creating an understanding among different nations and cultures of their common interests.
Obviously, the path that China chooses to realize its rejuvenation will be achieved in accordance with its own traditions, both old and new. The path it takes will be a path with Chinese characteristics. But given the role that China plays in creating a new international economic and political framework, where nations can work together for the common good, the whole world should wish it success and offer it assistance in accomplishing its main goals.
China wishes to cooperate with all nations in this endeavor, something that has been reiterated time and again by Xi and his colleagues. But it is up to people of goodwill in Europe, the U.S. and the rest of the world to see that this offer is accepted and that a global effort is undertaken to pull humanity out of the tremendous crisis it faces today.
The author is Washingtong bureau chief of the Executive Intelligence Review news magazine
Copyedited by Rebeca Toledo
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