New leadership has opportunity to restore China’s destiny as great nation

By Ralph Benko Source:Global Times Published: 2013-3-14 19:58:01

General Secretary of the CPC Central Committee Xi Jinping is following in the footsteps of four great immediate predecessors. Meanwhile, he confronts extraordinary challenges.

China, to receive recognition as a benevolent and admired world power, must, as noted in the 18th CPC National Congress, "continue to hold high the great banner of socialism with Chinese characteristics, maintain an ideological state to free up the mind, implement the policy of reform and opening-up, pool the strength and overcome all difficulties, promote economic, political, cultural, social, and ecological progress and Party building in an all-around way." 

The Party also gave this top leader a mandate "to unite and lead people of all ethnic groups in the new historic journey." Achieving these goals would make Xi a great, even historic, leader. Considering the challenges he is confronting, it won't be easy. Yet steps in the first few months provide grounds for optimism.

One of the current initiatives is to close, or deeply reform, the reeducation through labor system. This system is the source of abuse not only of political dissidents but also of regular citizens who have been interred at the whim of local officials for having dared to petition for the redress of grievances. Such abuses must be ended.

Changing this system, plus making major reforms to unite and lead people of all ethnic groups, very much including the Tibetans and Uyghurs, as well as religious groups, through gentle benevolence, would constitute grounds for China's credibility in the international community.

Some skepticism is understandable, yet it is much too soon to judge the top leader. The preliminary evidence indicates Xi to be seriously committed to reform and to human rights rather than papering over corruption and oppression.

The former leaders of China were wise enough to draw upon the guidance of Nobel Prize laureate Robert Mundell as part of developing macroeconomic policy that allowed China to grow 10 percent a year for three decades.

That growth rate now may be fading, somewhat. It might be time for the leadership to reach out to another Nobel laureate, Daniel Kahneman, to help guide China into a new era.

As South China Morning Post writer Alex Lo recently wrote of Kahneman's book Thinking, Fast and Slow, "You will find that knowing little makes it easier to fit everything you know into a coherent pattern. Lo pointed out "it is the consistency of the information that matters for a good story, not its completeness."

According to Lo, "This has enormous political implications and applies to practically every big public debate, say, national education and mainlanders' invasion of Hong Kong… What about the eternal debate about democracy that must rely on public opinion to govern and elitist authoritarianism that favors the opinions of experts?" Kahneman offers much worth learning.

Former Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping gave China "socialism with Chinese characteristics." The world watches to see, now, whether the new top leader will give China "Leninism with Chinese characteristics," further exalting basic human rights, benevolently uniting and leading, people of all ethnic and religious groups, resolving ecological challenges, maintaining Chinese territorial integrity and sovereignty, expanding social prosperity, restoring the Party to a pristine commitment to serve the people, and purging the selfish and corrupt. 

Sun Yat-sen, a revered revolutionary leader, often referenced the "Great Unity" called for in ancient Chinese classics, "Society in Great Unity was ruled by the public, where the people chose men of virtue and ability, and valued trust and harmony."

Let's hope that the new leadership can achieve this high standard thereby more completely restoring China to the status of greatness among the councils of the nations that is its legacy and destiny.

The author served as a junior official in the Reagan White House, and is an international award-winning author and advisor to the Lehrman Institute's policy website. Chen Li, who is a PhD candidate at Erasmus University, Rotterdam, in behavioral economics, contributed to this article.

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