Johannesburg - The book was three years of speeches – and a month’s worth of translation into English by a team of 20 – and this week it was unveiled to the South African public.
Xi Jinping, the Governance of China Volume II was officially accepted and endorsed at the 19th Congress of the Communist Party of China in Beijing in October as the blueprint for the world’s second largest economy – in terms of its domestic, foreign and economic ambitions – until the middle of the 21st century.
It was, said People’s Republic of China (PRC) ambassador to South Africa Lin Songtian, “the most systematic and authoritative version of the Chinese dream of national rejuvenation”.
Hosting the launch at the PRC embassy in Pretoria on Tuesday in tandem with a seminar made up of academics and diplomats, he said, was both highly relevant and significant given the ties between the PRC and South Africa.
Huang Youyi, chief translator of ‘Xi Jinping: the Governance of China, Volume II’, at the book’s launch at the People’s Republic of China embassy in Pretoria on Tuesday.
South Africa’s Minister of Public Service and Administration Faith Muthambi, who had been delayed for an hour by the rain that swept Gauteng, said Xi had defied William Shakespeare’s dictum of greatness. He had not been born great, nor had greatness thrust upon him or achieved greatness.
“Xi Jinping was both made by the times and made the times. He redefines the future trajectory. He puts himself in the pantheon of leaders and philosophers of the last 5 000 years of the Chinese civilisation.”
Quoting from the book approvingly, she said: “The world has no respect for those who do not respect themselves; the PRC may learn from others but doesn’t outsource the development of thought to other countries as happens in other countries.”
She said she and her colleagues would be reading the book closely to see how it applied to South Africa.
Some immediate insights, she said, were the facts that to run a country well, the party had to be run well – and be subject to the will of the people. Xi had written how corruption in a society showed how the party was in fact divorced from the people.
“Leadership, President Xi writes, is about putting the people first.”
The word “people” is mentioned 1 261 times in the 300 000-word, 620-page book, said chief translator Huang Youyi. “It appears more than any other word. It’s not a catch phrase or a slogan.”
Instead, said Huang, it was an article of faith, closely followed by prosperity; underpinned by the goal of eliminating poverty entirely by 2020, doubling the 2010 GDP level.
“The third word is peace, a community with a shared future for humanity. China’s opening up is not a one-man show, fighting for spheres of influence and building its own backyard but rather building a park that everyone can have a share of.”
Xi, he said, had only become the third Chinese leader after Mao ze Dong and Deng Xiaoping to have his thoughts codified, in this case as “Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era”.
“Mao was in power for 40 years; Xi has only been in power for five, but such has been his impact on China, economically and politically, that people say he deserves it.”
China’s experience resonated with Africa, said Ambassador Du Qiwen, former Chinese deputy foreign affairs minister.
“In 1949, overwhelming poverty and backwardness were China’s greatest challenges, but after 40 years of trial and experiment we’ve found our way forward.
"Last year, China was the world’s second biggest economy and the world’s biggest manufacturer. By 2035 the Chinese GDP per capita could be US$ 30 000 a year – this will bring about unprecedented opportunities. We hope our friends in Africa will rise up and grasp them.”