The caller, a Chinese official I respect, asked that I black out October 8. Why, he wouldn't yet say. The project was an unprecedented, 500-plus page book, called Xi Jinping: The Governance of China; I was invited to speak at its launch on the Frankfurt Book Fair's opening day. That the book by Xi Jinping was released during the Hong Kong protests is coincidental, but the contrasting approaches to governance are instructive.
Xi's book was published in nine languages at the same time, a massive task of translation and publishing logistics.
I saw Xi's book as an opportunity to discern the Chinese leader's way of thinking on multiple levels; it is like a blueprint of what Xi thinks it will take to realise "the Chinese Dream" and to achieve "the great rejuvenation".
I offer three perspectives on this nonpareil publication: substance, presenting Xi's political philosophy; symbol, recognising Xi's emergence as China's leader; and signal, communicating Xi's way of thinking to the world.
On substance, the book specifies how Xi's political theory and practice affect all aspects of society and statecraft - in 79 of Xi's speeches and commentaries. Comparative numbers may reveal relative importance. Of the book's 18 chapters, 11 relate to domestic affairs, seven to foreign affairs; six have political relevance; six concern standards of living; four stress standards of behaviour; there is one chapter each for deeper reform, economic development, advanced culture, social undertakings, and ecological progress; in foreign affairs, three chapters cover diplomacy, three deal with international cooperation, and there's one on national defence.
Xi's governance is writ large. It is founded on political structure and function, but it is all-inclusive, encompassing the full spectrum of national activities and citizen affairs, leading to national revival and citizen prosperity.
On symbol, that this authoritative work, including a mini-biography, is published less than two years after Xi became general secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, conveys, in China's special way, the established fact of Xi's consolidation and confidence of power, and his strength and vision of leadership.
Moreover, the book's grand and all-embracing title, The Governance of China - without parallel for an in-office Chinese leader - reflects an agreed conviction that China's current conditions call for bold leadership, fresh thinking, resolute dedication and unflinching commitment.
On signal, by explicitly presenting his views, and by publishing his book globally, Xi makes known to the world his philosophies and policies - and takes responsibility for making his ways of thinking clear, unambiguous and open to all. It is a good sign when China reaches out to the world.
In Xi's book, one can trace various themes for realising the Chinese dream. One is a "chain of developmental causation" - linking political stability to farreaching reform to economic growth to social betterment to cultural enrichment. The 18 chapters are "bookended" by political stability. "Socialism with Chinese Characteristics" is the first chapter of the book, affirming China's fundamental political theory. "The CPC Leadership" is the last chapter, asserting the party's continuing ruling status. Both highlight Xi's commitment to maintaining China's one-party political system, in order to achieve the Chinese dream.
"The Chinese Dream" is the second chapter. Once the political system is confirmed as the foundation, "The Chinese Dream" announces the allencompassing goal of national pride and personal fulfilment. Then, reform and development follow naturally, as economic growth is the driver to transform and modernise China.
One is struck by Xi's commitment to reform. Not the Western model of political reform with multiparty national elections, but a bracing kind of ambitious, expansive, ubiquitous reform that seeks to transform China's society and culture as well as its economy.
The world is watching China; many are hopeful, too many are fearful, so the multiple chapters on international relations should be scrutinised. Xi is unapologetic in asserting China's sovereignty: "While pursuing peaceful development, we will never sacrifice our legitimate rights and interests or China's core interests. No foreign country should expect China to trade off its core interests or swallow bitter fruit that undermines China's sovereignty, security or development."
There is great need for true understanding of China, as the largest population on earth undergoes the greatest transformation in history. China participates in every matter of world importance - yet misunderstandings abound. There is now no need to speculate about President Xi. The Governance of China is how he thinks, comprehensively and candidly. It is the pride of a patriot.
The author is an international corporate strategist and author of How China's Leaders Think and the biography of former president Jiang Zemin
(Source: South Chinea Morning Post)