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Few political parties worldwide could boast such a long history and uninterrupted period of state governance as the Communist Party of China (CPC), which has been China's ruling party for 72 years. Presently, Xi Jinping is the core of the CPC leadership.
Before him, generations of central collective leadership had spanned the decades with Mao Zedong, Deng Xiaoping, Jiang Zemin, and Hu Jintao as chief representatives.
Since being elected general secretary of the CPC Central Committee in November 2012, Xi has been seen as a man of determination and action, a man of profound thoughts and feelings, a man who inherited a legacy but dares to innovate, and a man who has forward-looking vision and is committed to working tirelessly.
Under his leadership, China is becoming a powerful country, and is now entering an era of strength, according to Channel News Asia.
WALKING WITH THE PEOPLE
It was in 1974 in Shaanxi's Liangjiahe that Xi joined the Party. He was just 15 years old when he arrived there in 1969 as an "educated youth."
He would spend the next seven years living in the small village on the rural Loess Plateau; at the end of a day's labor, he would return to his primitive cave house and sleep on a simple clay bed. It would take 38 years and multiple postings across various levels of the Party's hierarchy until he would be elevated to the top job.
After joining the CPC, Xi became Party secretary of Liangjiahe. One of his village colleagues said Xi "worked conscientiously, had many ideas and could unite the people and cadres."
Recalling his time in the impoverished village, Xi said what he wanted more than anything was to make it possible for the villagers to "have meat on their plates."
In 1975, Xi was admitted to the prestigious Tsinghua University in Beijing. After graduating, he first worked at the general office of the Central Military Commission before moving to Zhengding, a county in northern Hebei Province in 1982.
Recalling the move to Zhengding, Xi said he had volunteered to work at the grassroots level among the people. He said he wanted to "love the people like he loves his parents."
After Zhengding, Xi's political career took him to the coastal provinces of Fujian and Zhejiang and the metropolis of Shanghai. Wherever he went, his close ties with the people were notable.
Xi's people-centered philosophy explains why he ordered unwavering efforts to save people's lives at all costs during the COVID-19 epidemic, said Liu Jingbei, a professor at the China Executive Leadership Academy in Pudong, Shanghai.
In 2007, Xi returned to Beijing to sit on the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee and later became China's vice president. He oversaw areas including Party building, organizational work, Hong Kong and Macao affairs, and preparations for the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
At the age of 59, Xi was elevated to the Party's most senior post in November 2012. About a month later, he braved the winter cold to visit poor villagers in Hebei. Sitting down with them, Xi asked about their income, and if they had sufficient food and enough quilts and coal to stay warm through the winter. Xi said his heart sank when he saw that some villagers were still struggling to make ends meet.
STRENGTHENING THE PARTY
The year 2021 is also the ninth year of Xi's signature anti-corruption campaign, the most extensive in Chinese history. It shows no signs of letting up.
More than 20 high-level officials in the financial sector have been punished or investigated over the past year. And in the past 30 days or so, one former ministerial-level official in the central government's law-enforcement apparatus was investigated while another was punished.
Over the past nine years, more than 400 officials at ministerial level or above have been punished or investigated, including a former member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee and two former vice chairmen of the Central Military Commission. From 2014 to 2020, over 8,300 fugitives were repatriated from more than 120 countries and regions.
"In a critical time, Xi turned the tide," said a foreign media editorial.
As the general secretary of the CPC Central Committee, Xi has led efforts to formulate and revise around 200 intra-party regulations. He also launched five Party-wide education campaigns to firm up the ideals and convictions of Party members and ensure they act effectively and in unison.
By June this year, the number of CPC members had grown to 95 million, 10 million more than the population of Germany. Experts on China affairs say the Party has become more disciplined, pure, and powerful.
In 2016, the sixth plenary session of the 18th CPC Central Committee established Xi's status as the core of the CPC Central Committee and the whole Party.
In October 2017, Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era was officially instituted at the 19th CPC National Congress. The thought was enshrined in the CPC Constitution and China's Constitution.
Like Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping, Xi has advanced the adaption of Marxism to the Chinese context and kept it relevant, said Xin Ming, a professor at the Party School of the CPC Central Committee (National Academy of Governance).
MAKING CHINA STRONG
After the Opium War of 1840, China was gradually reduced to a semi-colonial and semi-feudal society. It was bullied by foreign powers and suffered from poverty and weakness.
The CPC was founded in 1921 to change the situation.
Two weeks after Xi's elevation to the Party's top job, he put forward "the Chinese Dream" of national rejuvenation. This October, at an event commemorating the 110th anniversary of the Revolution of 1911, Xi mentioned "rejuvenation" 25 times in his 35-minute speech, making it one of the most emphasized messages.
Xi believes that rejuvenation requires both strategic design and hard work. He took the lead by being a man of action. In 2019 alone, he took part in more than 500 important events. His working itinerary covered weekends of about 30 weeks in that year. He revised each draft of major reform plans.
"Happiness is achieved through hard work," he said.
He often visits farms, fishing villages, farmers' houses, small eateries, supermarkets, factory workshops, laboratories, hospitals, schools, and even inspects pigsties and toilets to obtain first-hand information of people's livelihood.
Xi has stood the test in the face of numerous hurdles and crises over the past nine years.
In early 2015, when Yemen descended into chaos, he directed the navy to evacuate hundreds of stranded Chinese nationals.
When the United States initiated a trade war against China, he devised the strategy that China does not want a trade war but is not afraid of one and will fight one if necessary.
He also said strengthening dialogue and cooperation is the only right choice for the two countries. "The vast Pacific Ocean has enough space for the two large countries of China and the United States," Xi said.
From conducting regular patrols in the waters of Diaoyu Islands, fending off the so-called South China Sea arbitration, finding solutions to China-India border conflicts, to facilitating the return of Chinese people illegally detained overseas, Xi has spearheaded strategic and tactical planning and, if necessary, personally intervened.
In 2019, when social unrest gripped Hong Kong, he directed efforts to safeguard the "one country, two systems" cause and crush attempts to instigate a "color revolution."
On the eve of Lunar New Year 2020, with the COVID-19 epidemic clouding festivities, Xi had a sleepless night. The next day, he convened a Party leadership meeting to discuss the country's response. Before the meeting, Xi had made a decision to tighten restrictions on the movement of people and channels of exit in Hubei and Wuhan. Time has shown how this strict approach was the only viable option.
"It is indeed a huge responsibility and arduous task to govern such a big country," Xi said when answering a question from a foreign politician. "I am willing to be selfless and devote myself to China's development. I will not let the people down."
BREAKING NEW GROUND OF REFORM
Xi designed a Chinese model of modernization characterized by an innovative, coordinated, green, and open development path that is for everyone.
Observers say this development vision is intended to lead socialist China out of a development trap reliant on extensive and inefficient growth at the cost of ecological damage, shifting the country to high-quality development, and avoiding situations where the rich become richer and the poor poorer.
Led by Xi, reform has reached into diverse fields, spanning land-use policies, Party building in state-owned firms, judicial procedure, family planning, fiscal and tax policies, the real estate market, science and technology, and anti-monopoly.
One reform measure, above all, stands out: the modernization of institutions, which directly impacts China's long-term development and stability. Its essence is upholding and improving socialism with Chinese characteristics, and modernizing China's system and capacity for governance.
At times, reforms encountered great difficulties. To address controversies and eliminate obstructions, Xi himself had to give the final say.
Reforms have made China more open. In 2013, the first pilot free trade zone was established in Shanghai. Now the number of such zones has reached 21, including the entire island of Hainan, which is roughly the size of a small European country. China's negative list for foreign investment has been further shortened.
While some countries chose to erect trade barriers, China made itself host of a series of global trade and investment fairs. Xi personally initiated the China International Import Expo, one of the multiple national-level expos across the country.
From 2013 to 2020, China's GDP grew by about 6.4 percent each year on average, contributing more than 30 percent of world economic growth on average for many years in a row. China's GDP exceeded the 100-trillion-yuan threshold in 2020, or about seven-tenths of that of the United States.
In 2021, China ranked 12th in the Global Innovation Index, higher than Japan, Israel, and Canada. It is the top recipient of foreign direct investment and the world's No. 1 consumer market.
So far, the most impressive achievement in the new era has been the accomplishment of the "first centenary goal," namely building a moderately prosperous society in all respects, said Liu Ronggang, a research fellow at the Institute of Party History and Literature of the CPC Central Committee.
The country has the world's most extensive social security system in scale and the largest middle-income group. Extreme poverty has ended, once and for all.
Over the past nine years, about 100 million people have been hoisted out of extreme poverty. Xi ordered Party members and officials to be stationed at impoverished villages to carry out targeted poverty alleviation measures at the coalface.
Xi himself had visited every one of the country's 14 contiguous poorest areas. Eliminating extreme poverty was likened to fighting a war. Indeed, the campaign had its fallen heroes, with more than 1,800 people dying in the line of duty.
Xi also comprehensively reformed the armed forces. Reiterating the principle established by Mao Zedong that "the Party commands the gun," Xi introduced a series of reforms in the military's leadership and command system, size, structure, and force composition. He demanded the military be combat-ready.
CONTRIBUTING TO GLOBAL COMMUNITY
Xi has been at the forefront of China's efforts to engage with and contribute to the global community.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic broke out, he had visited 69 countries in 41 tours and been the first Chinese head of state to attend the World Economic Forum in Davos. He has said that, while spending so much time on overseas visits might be deemed a "luxury," he sees it as "worthwhile."
His schedule during overseas visits is usually very tight and can last until the small hours. He had even spent his birthday during an overseas tour.
Altay Atli, a scholar based in Istanbul, Turkey, noted that there is a transformation of China's participation in international affairs, whether economic or diplomatic, under Xi's leadership, and that the world is witnessing the emergence of a major country with global influence.
In 2013, Xi raised the notion of "building a community with a shared future for humanity."
When elaborating on the specifics of his vision, Xi proposed that the international community should promote partnership, security, growth, inter-civilization exchanges, and the building of a sound ecosystem, citing a proverb: "The interests to be considered should be the interests of all."
Under this concept, Xi proposed a new approach to international relations based on mutually beneficial cooperation and the principle of achieving shared growth through discussion and collaboration in global governance.
"What kind of international order and governance system best suits the world and best suits the people of all countries? This is something that should be decided by all countries through consultation, and not by a single country or a few countries," he said.
The same principle runs through the framework for major-country relations, as advocated by Xi, which features overall stability and balanced development. On many occasions, he has stressed that if nations maintain communication and treat each other with sincerity, the "Thucydides trap" can be avoided.
The same year that Xi first called on the world to jointly build a community with a shared future for humanity, he also proposed the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). By August 2021, about 172 countries and international organizations had signed more than 200 cooperation documents with China under this framework. According to a report from the World Bank, BRI projects could help lift 7.6 million people out of extreme poverty and 32 million people out of moderate poverty globally.
Global development, however, should not come at the cost of the environment, and in 2020 Xi offered a clear signal of commitment when he told the world that China would peak carbon dioxide emissions before 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality before 2060.
"The world should thank China for its contribution to climate change responses," said former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.
When the COVID-19 pandemic broke out, Xi called for global solidarity and cooperation. By his instruction, China provided anti-virus material for more than 150 countries and 14 international organizations and sent 37 medical teams to 34 countries.
He pledged to make Chinese COVID-19 vaccines a global public good and promised that China would provide 2 billion doses of vaccines to the world this year.
Over the past 100 years, the world's most populous country has been on an almost unbelievable journey -- from a poverty-stricken nation to one where basic needs are met to its current state of moderate prosperity. Xi deemed this achievement a contribution to humanity.
Describing her impressions of Xi, Maria Fernanda Espinosa Garces, president of the 73rd session of the UN General Assembly, called him "a seasoned captain" whose contributions, such as advocating multilateralism, the BRI, and the notion of a community with a shared future for humanity, have been significant.
FULFILLING NEW MISSIONS
The CPC plans to achieve national rejuvenation through a pair of goals, known as "two centenaries."
During the past nine years, as the Party's most senior leader, Xi has led the country in completing the first step and chaired the design of the second step of this historic plan.
First, socialist modernization should be "basically realized" by 2035, and second, China should be built into a great modern socialist country that is prosperous, strong, democratic, culturally advanced, harmonious, and beautiful by the middle of the 21st century, which will be around the centenary of the People's Republic of China.
Supplementary road maps support these overarching goals. Most notably, Xi spearheaded the drafting of the Party leadership's proposals for the 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-2025) and the Long-Range Objectives Through the Year 2035, which were adopted in October 2020.
"Realizing this great dream demands a great struggle," he said.
Therefore, the sixth plenary session of the 19th CPC Central Committee in November comes at a significant time, as a resolution on the major achievements and historical experience in the Party's 100-year history will be discussed.
"Over its 100-year struggle, the CPC has accumulated rich experiences, understood important rules, developed governance theories and earned wisdom. This great treasure should be summarized to inspire the Party's governance better," said Han Qingxiang, professor at the Party School of the CPC Central Committee (National Academy of Governance).
History has emerged as something of a buzzword for all CPC members this year. A sweeping education campaign helped cadres recognize the Party's history, and a new Museum of the CPC was inaugurated.
On June 18, Xi and his colleagues toured the museum, viewing exhibits vividly displaying how the Party led China.
After concluding their exhibition tour, Xi and his colleagues took a vow in front of the Party flag, reliving a ritual undertaken by all new CPC members.
"I will fight for communism for the rest of my life," Xi said, leading the oath.