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Before he governed China, how did Xi Jinping govern Zhejiang?
We poured over his collection of 232 political essays for clues
As The Governance of China is presumably flying off the shelves across the world, this newsletter offers some literature that goes further into the past, a collection of political essays Xi Jinping penned while serving as the top official of Zhejiang province.
The collection is known as 之江新语，or Zhejiang, China: A New Vision for Development.
（There are also official French, Spanish, German, and Japanese translations, but foreign language copies are not widely sold in China. Your host purchased his English copy on JD.com)
The book is a collection of 232 essays written by Xi between February 2003 and March 2007. Xi served as Party Secretary of Zhejiang from 2002 to 2007.
These essays were first published in the Zhejiang Daily (The official paper of CPC Zhejiang Committee) under the pseudonym of 哲欣 （Zhexin）, a homophone of the abbreviation of “浙江创新” (zhe jiang chuang xin) or “the innovation of Zhejiang”. The essays were later collectively published in August 2007 and reprinted in November 2013.
The essays covered a wide swath of subjects relating to the governance of Zhejiang, expressing Xi’s views on the economy, the market, innovation, science & technology, the environment, rural issues, and the bureaucracy. Most of the essays are short in length, on point, and employ easy-to-understand language, so your host would definitely recommend the book for those interested in Chinese politics.
The essays were written during Xi’s first position at the helm of a province. Though the essays focused on issues related to Zhejiang, they undoubtedly reflect Xi’s observations and thoughts accumulated throughout his career in public service, which also included the top official of Zhengding County and Ningde city, among others.
Going through the essays, it was easy to draw lines between the views expressed in the book and policies he ushered in after becoming the general secretary, reflecting the consistencies of Xi’s views.
For example, in the essays Xi attached great importance to Three Rural Issues(三农问题), which means agriculture, rural area and farmers (农业、农村、农民). Xi advocated for better support for the rural workers, such as financial investment and vocational education. Since his becoming the general secretary, eliminating absolute poverty and implementing the rural revitalization strategy (乡村振兴战略) have been listed as top priorities of the party.
Also, Xi paid much attention to promoting the balance between social and economic development. It evolved into the New vision for development(新发展理念) in 2015, namely the vision of innovative, coordinated, green and open development that is for everyone(创新、协调、绿色、开放、共享).
More than a dozen essays outlined the goal of forging a “Green Zhejiang”(绿色浙江), putting forward the famous saying “lucid waters and lush mountains are invaluable assets”(绿水青山就是金山银山, the title for essay #140).
Additionally, Xi emphasized the importance of Party Building(党的建设) and an intimate party-masses relation (党群关系). These are an apparent foreshadowing of the drive to operate the CPC comprehensively under strict discipline (全面从严治党) since the 18th party congress.
Also, he discussed the rule of law and social stability, which are high on the agenda in current days. The concept of “Comprehensively Promoting Law-based Governance”(全面推进依法治国) first appeared in the 18th National Congress, as part of the Four-Pronged Comprehensive Strategy(“四个全面”战略布局).
However, your host would note that this book was written in the first decade of the 21st century, a time at which China’s GDP was only a fraction of its current levels, and specifically served for purpose of governing a relatively developed province along the coast. The party dictates that one should always 与时俱进，or move forward along with the time, therefore, the views expressed in the book should NOT simply be understood as Xi’s latest thoughts on governing the whole country, but as a reference in guiding today’s decision making.
II. A selection of essays
Your host took the liberty of selecting more than a dozen essays from the book that is believed to be most connected with current affairs, especially with economic and market regulatory policies.
Cultural Works Should Also Have "Box Office Value"
January 20, 2003
Cultural works cannot pretend to be some kind of highbrow art that is aloof from normal life and disdains "box office value." We can no longer walk the old road of creating award-winning works that rest on their laurels while collecting dust.
The vast majority of cultural works that are produced and disseminated in the socialist market economy must enter the market. Only when embraced by the public can good cultural works play their informative and educational role to the fullest extent and accomplish the goal of inspiring people – herein lies the significance of developing the cultural industry. A culture that has a market is not necessarily a progressive culture, but a culture without a market is much less likely a progressive culture. If there is no market, what audience does the work reach? How can such a work then serve its informative or educational purpose? And how is it progressive?
Progressive cultural works should embody progressive values and public appeal. They neither pander to vulgar taste nor ignore the market. In this sense, there is consistency between the commercial and ideological attributes of a cultural work, between its market share and ideological position, and between its economic and social benefits. The progressiveness of a cultural work is consistent with the cultural benefit it provides the people.
We must fully put into play the strengths of the socialist market economy to create and produce cultural works that are "close to reality, close to life, and close to the public" and "geared to the needs of modernization, the world, and the future." We must gain market share and engage with the public, constantly strengthening and expanding the position of socialist values.
Private Capital Has Great Potential
August 11, 2003
We should think more broadly about infrastructure construction. In particular, we need to take full advantage of Zhejiang's abundant private capital, and extensively attract investments from various sources. Construction recently began on the Hangzhou Bay Bridge. Total investment in the project is 11.8 billion yuan with a registered capital of 3.5 billion yuan, of which private funds account for 50.26 percent. This is an excellent example of attracting private funds to invest in major infrastructure construction and shows the great potential and promise of leveraging private capital.
Our country has been implementing a proactive fiscal policy over the past several years, increasing government investment and driving economic growth. This has achieved positive results; however, from a long-term perspective, relying solely on government investment is insufficient. A variety of approaches must be taken to sustain rapid economic growth, an important aspect of which is to galvanize private investment and expand its scope to create a self-driven mechanism of economic growth. This is a critical, directional, and fundamental matter. Restrictions on investment should be further relaxed. In particular, potentially profitable infrastructure construction projects should be as open to private investment as possible.
It's Better to Walk on Two Legs
August 12, 2003
When we look at our record of attracting foreign investment, there has been rapid and noticeable growth. However, compared with Guangdong, Jiangsu, and Shanghai, we have a "short leg". Attracting foreign investment is not merely a matter of drawing capital. More importantly, it involves the import of technology, human capital, and management, and furthering adjustment and enhancement of our industrial structure - it is a matter of opening up and aligning with international norms. We must change our way of attracting foreign investment, adopt effective measures to leverage foreign investment to a greater extent, and open up further to the outside world. Otherwise, we will develop a "lame leg," forfeiting our original advantage and falling behind in the competition.
Walking on two legs is always better than hopping on one. We have proposed a policy of linking to Shanghai in the north and attracting investment from Taiwan to the east. Thus we can better leverage the platform of openness that Shanghai offers, gather industrial activity moving out of developed countries, encourage foreign companies to establish offices and factories in Zhejiang, attract overseas investment, increase foreign trade, and open wider to the outside world.
Adopt an Overall View to Balance Urban and Rural Development
April 19, 2004
The rich content of the Scientific Outlook on Development involves all aspects of economic, political, cultural, and social development. It is based on comprehensive planning that emphasizes the "five balances" in particular. The balancing of urban and rural development, which is both a key component and an important embodiment of the Scientific Outlook on Development, is the first of the "five balances."
In recent years, as our province experienced rapid economic development and our GDP rose annually by more than 13%, urban and rural areas have profoundly changed and the lives of urban and rural residents have greatly improved. We must recognize, however, that rapid urban development and rising incomes for urban and rural residents mask the large disparities between urban and rural areas. Rural areas trail far behind urban areas when it comes to social programs for education, culture, health, and sports, as well as infrastructure development. The disparities in income, the standard of living, and quality of life between rural and urban residents continue to grow.
We must reverse growing gaps, dismantle the systemic and structural division of urban and rural areas, and develop them as a whole through balanced planning. We must create a development model in which urban and rural areas interact and develop in synergy. The Scientific Outlook on Development calls for all of these to be done. They also represent concrete steps toward comprehensive, balanced, and sustainable development that puts people first and the comprehensive development of our economy, society, and people.
A Campaign That Involves the Interests of All Families
July 21, 2004
The health of children as they grow up concerns the wellbeing of all families and bears on the fundamental interests of the people. For their sons and daughters to grow into healthy, useful people is the greatest wish of many parents. However, new issues have emerged as roadblocks to the development of moral awareness among children. Negative influences that accompany the development of the market economy have had adverse effects on children. Degenerate and harmful content broadcast via emerging media, such as the Internet and cellphones, is detrimental to children's development. Corruption and other misconduct that exists to some extent within the workings of the Party, government, and society, as well as counterfeiting, fraud, theft, feudal superstitions, and social evils such as pornography, gambling, and narcotics, pose direct threats to the mental and physical wellbeing of minors.
Some negative social factors even entice our youth to commit crimes. These threats have generated anxiety among parents; they are a source of great concern to officials and the public. Therefore, the campaign to strengthen and improve the development of moral awareness among children is in keeping with the Theory of Three Represents; it is also consistent with the fundamental principle that the Party should build itself for the public good and exercise power for the people. We must ensure the success of this campaign to boost public morality and advance the fundamental interests of the people.
Tighten Land Use in the Long Run
December 3, 2004
Land constraints are an inescapable reality in our province. Regardless of the intensity of macroeconomic regulation, it is clear that the former days of freewheeling land use are gone. Do not harbor the illusion that things will get easier if we wait. We must tighten land use in the long run. The constraints of Zhejiang's land resources are obvious to all.
Our officials are permitted to make mistakes, but they must not make irredeemable mistakes. Officials at every level must clearly understand that a mistake in land management is an irredeemable mistake.
The central government will roll out a rigorous, balanced, and effective land management system suitable for our national conditions. When this new system goes into effect, certain bans on land use will be lifted, but land regulation will be tightened. Under these conditions, we must first use the land that has already been approved for development as efficiently as possible. At the same time, new permits for land development will be subject to strict control. Such control will enforce optimal use of existing land approved for development and incentivize efficient utilization of land resources.
Accelerate the Development of Underdeveloped Areas
December 10, 2004
As our province accelerates the building of a moderately prosperous society in all respects and forges ahead to realize basic modernization ahead of schedule, the large gap that exists between different areas presents a prominent problem.
We must realize that an all-around moderately prosperous society cannot be completed in Zhejiang if underdeveloped areas are not also moderately prosperous, and province-wide modernization cannot be achieved without the modernization of underdeveloped areas. The "bucket theory" of economics applies here: The liquid capacity of a wooden bucket made by binding planks together in a circle is determined not by the length of the longest plank but by the length of the shortest plank. That is to say, whether our province can achieve the goals of building a moderately prosperous society and realizing basic modernization ahead of time is determined, to a great extent, by whether we can reduce the disparities between areas.
This requires that developed areas accelerate development and, more importantly, that underdeveloped areas achieve "leapfrog development." Developed areas should leverage their strengths and do all they can to assist underdeveloped areas in speeding up development. People in underdeveloped areas must transform their mindset, restructure their system, improve their environment, and make persistent efforts to achieve faster development. Through promoting the "Mountain and Coastal Regions Cooperation Program," we aim to "extend the short planks" and foster comprehensive cooperation between developed and underdeveloped areas. When these requirements are met, the people across the province will enjoy the fruits of development together.
Build Zhejiang into a "Province of Major Brands"
January 7, 2005
A brand embodies the technical ability, management level, cultural strength, and overall quality of a business. In a certain sense, a brand brings profit, boosts competitiveness, and adds value. Deng Xiaoping spoke about the importance of a brand strategy as early as 1992 when he said, “We should have our own flagship products and establish our own world-renowned brands, or we will be subjugated by others.” Many well-known businesses around the world prioritize brand development as a strategy for expanding their market.
Over the past few years, our businesses have accomplished a great deal in creating and promoting brands. Currently, the province is home to 45 state-recognized well-known trademarks - ranking number one in the country - and 83 China Top Brands - ranking number two nationally. We must promote brand development by guiding businesses to gain a firm awareness of the importance of the brand and by cultivating, enhancing, managing, and extending brands. In this way, unbranded products can become branded, and existing brands can strive for greater recognition. As more of our brands make the lists of well-known trademarks and China Top Brands, let us strive to create world-renowned brands and make Zhejiang a "province of major brands".
Develop High-Efficiency Eco-Agriculture
January 17, 2005
Three urgent tasks lie before us: accelerating the modernization of agriculture, transforming the model of agricultural growth, and increasing the overall capacity of agricultural production.
Based on a proper understanding of the reality in Zhejiang where we face a shortage of agricultural resources but wield comparative advantages, we should raise the overall capacity of agricultural production and modernize agriculture, so as to further promote the strategic restructuring of agriculture and develop high-efficiency eco-agriculture. Such efforts are driven by green consumption, directed at agricultural industrialization and ecological economics, and centered on boosting the competitiveness of agriculture in the market and its capacity for sustainable development. An improvement upon "efficient agriculture," high-efficiency eco-agriculture is an important tool for raising the income of farmers, leveraging our comparative strengths, and accelerating the modernization of agriculture. High-efficiency eco-agriculture incorporates modern agricultural practices that join intensive farming with an eco-friendly production.
Driven by green consumption and centered on raising the competitiveness of agriculture in the market and its capacity for sustainable development, high-efficiency eco-agriculture features high levels of input, output, and return, as well as sustainability.
Unlike petroleum-based agriculture, which combines high levels of input, output, and labor productivity, or natural farming, which emphasizes upholding the natural ecological balance and abandons targets for greater inputs and outputs, high-efficiency eco-agriculture is compatible with the natural resources available in Zhejiang and trends in modern agriculture. "High-efficiency" reflects the requirement of developing agriculture to increase rural incomes; "ecology" reflects the requirement for agriculture to provide eco-friendly and safe agricultural products and promote sustainable development.
Grow the Service Industry into an Economic Powerhouse
March 10, 2005
Accelerating the development of the service industry is an objective requirement that conforms to the laws of economic development and promotes the transformation of the growth model. We must observe economic laws and grow the service industry into an economic powerhouse.
Despite solid growth in recent years, Zhejiang's service industry remains underdeveloped, its value-added tends to be low, and its internal structure is not optimized. In order to further develop the service industry, we must modernize it through up-to-date information technology and new methods of distribution and management.
By merging the development of the service industry with the building of advanced manufacturing bases, we promote logistics financial, intermediary, software, information and other services that are closely related to manufacturing, and thus better serve the development of advanced manufacturing bases. A developed service industry acts as a booster for the manufacturing industry.
After all, a first-rate manufacturing industry needs the support of a first-rate service industry. Sectors such as transportation, logistics, and trade, when well developed, are conducive to the large-scale two-way movement of production factors and products, thus forming closer links that enable industry and trade to grow together. Well-functioning capital markets and financial services promote organic interaction between industrial capital from manufacturing and commercial and financial capital. The development of services for education, scientific research, and training will provide quality workers to the manufacturing industry, thus enhancing technological innovation.
By integrating the development of the service industry with the promotion of specialized markets, we encourage innovative business formats in those markets, expand e-commerce and online virtual marketplaces, and take advantage of modern methods for distribution and management to transform marketplaces and industry-specific districts, thus improving services in these markets.
By linking the development of the service industry with the comprehensive planning of urban and rural areas, we encourage the urban service industry to extend to rural areas and the rural service industry to move online.
By connecting the development of the service industry with expanding consumption, we enhance services for trade, tourism, culture, sports, healthcare, and commercial and residential housing, and thus raise the quality and standard of people's lives.
Leverage the Role of Imports
March 23, 2005
Under the influence of Keynesian economics, we have long regarded investment, consumption, and exports as the "troika" driving economic growth and imports as the "leakage" draining the economy. Experience has shown, however, that imports play an indispensable role in increasing the supply of production factors, promoting advances in technology, and improving the lives of people.
For years, Zhejiang has enjoyed a large trade surplus. While this surplus has benefitted the country as a whole, it reveals that Zhejiang has not taken advantage of overseas resources and production factors. We should make the most of imports to supplement our insufficient supply of resources, promote advances in technology, and upgrade our industries. With Zhejiang's abundant foreign exchange reserves, we should look for opportunities when the state reduces tariffs next year and import urgently needed energy, raw materials, and key equipment. The relevant government departments should improve organization and coordination when importing key items and explore ways to do joint procurement in order to reduce the cost of imports.
Balance Investment and Consumption
December 12, 2005
Balancing investment and consumption effectively boosts their roles as dual economic drivers. It also represents a necessary step in implementing the guiding principle of expanding domestic demand and presents a major challenge for a nation or region in the later stage of industrialization. In Capital, when Karl Marx discusses the relationship between the two components of the mode of production, he says that the amount of household consumption determines the volume of investment, which in turn determines the volume of production; therefore, household consumption is the ultimate source of impetus for economic growth. Analyzing Zhejiang's development from this perspective shows that, although a high level of investment during the initial stage of our province's industrialization did effectively support a high level of economic growth, and did drive the upgrading of industries and improvements of infrastructure, there has been an imbalance between high levels of investment and low levels of consumption over a long period of time. If this trend continues, our economic growth will be over-reliant on investment, which will lead to a series of macroeconomic problems in production, distribution, and consumption. Current household incomes, the state of upgraded consumption, and potential market demand here in Zhejiang indicate that our province is transitioning from investment-driven growth to growth driven by both investment and consumption. The experience of developed countries shows that once an economy enters into a stage where housing and transportation account for a significant portion of overall household consumption, household consumption will become a strong impetus for the growth of the entire economy under the right policy guidance, resulting in a long period of prosperity.
Of course, unlike measures to stimulate investment, an effort to increase household consumption does not produce quick results, instead, it requires quite a process. Today, macroeconomic regulation has already achieved visible success in balancing investment and consumption - investment has cooled and become higher quality while consumption has picked up and expanded. We need to further adjust policies and enact measures that aim to reduce income disparities among residents, between urban and rural areas and among different regions, especially by means of increasing fiscal transfer payments. These policies and measures should focus on expanding household consumption, especially consumption of rural households, and should work toward increasing the spending power of rural areas, underdeveloped areas, and low-income groups. We need to further improve the social security system to reduce households' expectations of future expenses and boost immediate consumption so that ordinary people can spend more money without worrying about the future. Finally, we need to deepen reform and eliminate factors that constrain consumption by providing better services to consumers, improving consumer credit, and establishing a social credit system. Such measures will give consumers the security and confidence to enjoy spending.
Scale the Heights of Balanced and Sustainable Development
March 3, 2006
We are currently facing a transition in the development model, from a simple pursuit of economic growth to working toward comprehensive, balanced, and sustainable economic and social development on the track to scientific development. This is a gradual and difficult process. We need to cross a series of obstacles to reach new heights. This is analogous to climbing and crossing over a mountain range: No sooner have we reached one peak than there is another, higher, summit facing us. How can economic and social development stop at one mountain? It is as described in a poem by Song Dynasty poet Yang Wanli (1127-1206), "Do not say there will be no more difficulty beyond this mountain, or else climbers will mistakenly rejoice; you have just entered the mountain range - after putting one mountain behind you another will block the road ahead."
The task we face now is to scale the heights of balanced and sustainable development without succumbing to fear obstacles. This mountain range is high and alluring, yet perilous. Additionally, on this journey, we must carry heavy luggage and equipment, and weapons to protect us from wild animals. We must eat and drink to restore our energy. We must also support the elderly and lead along the young as we travel. And, we cannot even just throw away our litter. Further, the main thoroughfares and level paths are already occupied by others; our road is more dangerous and difficult to travel. We are blazing a trail where none previously existed. Not only must we keep healthy, but we must become stronger. We are starting from behind. Our attempt to catch up and surpass others is a race against time. During this journey, steeper mountains, more dangerous passes, and more complex circumstances will serve to better sharpen our will and increase our abilities and skills. We can scale the heights of balanced and sustainable development only by bravely clearing the obstacles that beset us and forging ahead to cross the mountains.
Deepen Reform with "Two Hands"
March 17, 2006
Since the start of reform and opening up, Zhejiang has led the initial establishment and continued improvement of the market economy that has roused the enthusiasm of millions of people. Our province can count the boom in our private sector, the growth of our state-owned sector, and the rapid transformation of our social fabric as great successes. While some have referred to the Zhejiang economy as the people's economy, this is not to say that Party committees and government contributed nothing, but rather that they have respected the creative initiative of the people, which has enabled market-oriented reforms to advance steadily and Zhejiang to become one of the most market-driven provinces in the country.
The key to deepening market-oriented reforms lies in managing the relationship between the government and the market. This relationship between the "two hands" refers to the "visible hand" of the government and the "invisible hand" of the market. When we were in a planned economy, the hand of the government was the only one that played a part. During the initial period of reform, therefore, the emphasis was on highlighting the hand of the market to demonstrate its fundamental role in allocating resources. With the deepening of reform, we must transform the functions performed by the hand of the government into “economic regulation, market oversight, social management, and public services.” We must strive to create a service-oriented government that is based on the rule of law and effectively employs, regulates, and coordinates the relationship between the “two hands”.
When reform advances to reach a certain point, the relationship between the “two hands” should be optimized. For example, in terms of balancing social and economic development, the hand of the market plays a greater role in regulating the economy while the hand of the government has a stronger role in social management and public services. In terms of economic performance, the hand of the market regulates economic activity in microeconomic areas while the hand of the government defines the rules of activity and conducts macroeconomic regulation. In terms of fairness and efficiency, the hand of the market stimulates efficiency while the hand of the government emphasizes fairness. In terms of urban and rural development, urban areas are more dependent on the functions played by the hand of the market while rural areas are highly reliant on functions played by the hand of the government. This is a step-by-step process, of course, but it marks the necessary direction for driving reform to a deeper level.
Market Economy Only Works Under the Rule of Law
May 12, 2006
The efficiency of the market economy is determined by the laws of value, competition, and supply and demand. However, the rule of law is a guarantee for applying the inherent laws of the market economy and the market economy’s basic principles of fair competition, equal value exchange, and honesty and good faith. A business entity without the status of a legal person cannot become a true market player. If the market lacks the necessary legal protection to maintain order, there will be improper market activity, distorted market information, and unfair competition. If we lack a system of rule of law to punish and protect against improper market activity, the interest of trustworthy people will be compromised, illegal activity will go unpunished, and the market economy will remain unrealized. This indicates that the market economy is based on the rule of law.
An important motive for promoting the rule of law is to reflect and uphold the requirements for the development of socialist advanced productive forces, serve the socialist market economy, and pursue equality, freedom, justice, efficiency, and other values inherent to the socialist market economy. For our province to be in the vanguard of improving the socialist market economy, we must first be in the vanguard of promoting the rule of law. We should make greater use of legal means to regulate the economy and practice oversight. We should strengthen our protection of intellectual property rights, improve our innovation capabilities, and oppose unfair competition. These actions serve to safeguard order in the market and ensure the healthy development of the socialist market economy.
This newsletter was put together with the help of Chenjie Liao, a student at Sun Yat-sen University, and Qi Cui, a graduate student at China Foreign Affairs University, who are interns to this newsletter.