Xi Jinping’s storytelling style ends stereotype of tedious official speeches

By Leng Shumei Source:Global Times Published: 2017/6/29 18:33:39

A woman reads Xi Jinping Tells Stories at a book store. Photo: CFP

Using lively stories to convey ideas about China, which is a distinct feature of Chinese President Xi Jinping's leading style, has not only brought the Communist Party of China (CPC) much closer to the masses but also revolutionized officials' often tedious narration, experts said.

A book, Xi Jinping Tells Stories, was published early this month by the People's Daily, consisting of 109 stories that Xi has told in speeches and articles regarding various fields including on politics, diplomacy and national defense.

"Readers can not only feel the charm of the stories and classics Xi used, but also, through these stories and classics, understand Xi's ideas better," Yang Zhenwu, president of the People's Daily, the CPC's flagship newspaper, said at the book's launch event on June 15.

Su Wei, a professor at the Party School of the Chongqing Committee, told the Global Times on Wednesday that "before the 18th National Congress of the CPC in 2012, it was a stereotype that Chinese officials' speeches are often empty and tedious."

"Xi has criticized these officials for not even 'speaking like a human being' when talking with the masses," Su noted.

It is a tradition for the CPC to convey ideas through stories and in accordance with the communist tenet of correlating theory with practice, Su said, adding that a return to this tradition has injected new vitality to China's governance.

House of cards

In a speech to the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection of the CPC in January 2016, Xi referred to US political drama House of Cards when addressing the anti-corruption issue.

"As the anti-corruption work continues, some parts of the public have started to think things such as 'anti-corruption has no relation to the people's interests,' 'anti-corruption affects economic development' and 'anti-corruption is just a power struggle.' As to these misunderstandings, we have to refute and explain that the Party's anti-corruption work is not a power game like in House of Cards or an unfinished building that has a beginning but no end," Xi said.

"Chinese officials are accustomed to using clichéd expressions, which are far from attractive to people, especially the youth," Zhuang Deshui, deputy director of the Research Center for Government Integrity-Building at Peking University.

Zhuang said that by using stories that are familiar to people, Xi shows his affection for the people and gets closer to them, helping them understand that he is thinking what they think and caring about what they care about. 

In a speech during his visit to Tanzania in 2013, Xi introduced the story of Chinese girl Li Ling and her husband.

Li posted about her 2010 honeymoon in Tanzania on social media and attracted tens of thousands of followers who marvelled at her descriptions of magnificent scenery, romantic sunsets and the country's spectacular wildlife.

"The young couple fell in love with Africa, their hearts will never leave the land of wonder," Xi said.

Monotone meetings 

"As a witness to China's reform and opening-up in the past 40 years, Xi knows many good stories and he is good at digging into these stories," Su said.

Su noted that the key to understanding these stories and telling them well is to be sincere toward the Party and to the people.

Obviously, few other Chinese officials make the grade as reports about people dozing off during meetings are a regular occurrence.

Six sleepy Party members were discplined in February for nodding off during a meeting held to discuss how to motivate lazy and sluggish officials in Xiangyang, Central China's Hubei Province.

The six men were later asked to hand in written self-criticisms to the city's Party committee and to separately make a public apology at staff meetings of the units where they work, according to the Xiangyang municipal discipline inspection authority.

However, after news reports about this incident went viral on Sina Weibo, besides criticizim of the six Party members, many mocked such meetings as meaningless.

"Full of big and empty words, who can stay awake during such boring meetings," Weibo user Yanji commented.

"Officials should make it clear that meetings are an opportunity for them to communicate, not to simply repeat what the book says," Zhuang noted.

Newspaper headline: Lively narration


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