China's new President Xi Jinping: A man with a dream

A woman cycles past traffic during a sand storm in heavily polluted weather in Beijing, 28 February 2013 Xi understands that China must reform its economy to make growth less damaging to the environment

China's new President, Xi Jinping, says he is a man with a dream, which he calls "the China Dream".

His ambition, he's indicated in speeches in recent weeks, is to lead a Chinese renaissance so China can resume its rightful place in the world.

Confirmed as China's new head of state, Mr Xi is now one of the most powerful leaders on the planet. He can, if he wishes, influence the destiny of hundreds of millions of people, inside and outside China. He can try to shape history. So will he? And if so, how? What does his dream mean?

China isn't a democracy, it's a one-party, authoritarian state. Three thousand delegates at the National People's Congress voted to approve Xi Jinping as president. But that means that for roughly every 460,000 Chinese, just one person got to vote for their new leader.

And Mr Xi's real power comes not from the job he began today, as China's president but from the two roles he was appointed to last November, as general secretary of the Communist Party and commander-in-chief of China's armed forces.

So Mr Xi has not had to campaign publicly for the job of president, he's not set out a manifesto, he's not had to put his character and policies on display. But he has indicated his dream is to make China prosperous, powerful and proud once again.

To reinforce that message, he has been making high-profile visits to carefully chosen locations around China in recent weeks. State television has given prominent coverage to his trips.

The first was to the "Special Economic Zone" of Shenzhen in the south, the cradle of China's economic revolution. The message of that visit was that Mr Xi wants to be seen as a reformer in the mould of Deng Xiaoping, the man who set China's economy free but kept its political system under tight control.

Then Xi Jinping visited two very poor areas - a village in the mountains in Hebei near Beijing, and the arid lands of Gansu in the west.

He was filmed meeting peasants, tasting their food, chatting with them in their homes. This time the message was that Mr Xi wants to be seen as a "man of the people", in touch with the concerns of poor Chinese.

The Communist Party is aware that its image and authority have been eroded as people have seen corruption and inequality soar along with China's growing wealth.

The party risks becoming viewed as the defender of privilege. So Mr Xi is promising more action to tackle corruption, to spread China's wealth, to create a fairer society.

Finally he's also paid visits to high-profile military units. Part of Xi Jinping's dream is also to make China a major military power.

His message to the armed forces was that they must continue to pledge allegiance to the Communist Party. China's military is expressly political, controlled by the party not by the state. Its duty is to uphold the rule of the party.

'Critical mistakes'

Mr Xi is a "princeling", the son of one of the men who led China's communist revolution. He's from a powerful and privileged background.

Alongside him in China's new leadership are many other princelings. Their patrimony imbues them with a sense of entitlement. They are the inheritors and the guardians of China's communist revolution.

Chinese Communist Party leaders after the opening session of the annual National People's Congress in Beijing, 5 March 2013 Xi is said to be looking to strengthen the rule of the Communist Party.

But Mr Xi's relatives and many other powerful families have also become rich in recent years. According to an investigation by the Bloomberg news agency, Mr Xi's family has accumulated hundreds of millions of dollars worth of assets.

Tackling inequality and corruption may become problematic if it starts to affect the wealth of the party elite.

So perhaps the most significant indication of Mr Xi's intentions as China's new leader was not his public talk of his dream, but a private speech he gave to Communist Party members during his visit to Shenzhen.

The writer Gao Yu, who follows the politics of China's leaders, was passed quotes from the speech. She says Xi Jinping "knows exactly where the party's critical mistakes are".

First there's the fact that China must reform the way its economy is developing to make growth more sustainable, more equitable, less damaging to the environment.

Then there is the "wealth gap" that has opened up in China. "The benefits of reform have basically been taken by government officials. Money has flowed to them and to the rich, not into protecting our environment, or into social security, medical insurance or education," Ms Gao says.

"The whole world sees how corrupt our government officials are and how angry our people are. In their hearts people no longer believe in the legality of the party's rule. That is the most important thing that Xi has to solve."

And she says that when Xi Jinping speaks of reform, he does not mean political reform. In his private speech, Gao Yu says, Mr Xi was explicit, telling party members: "Some people define reform as changes towards the universal values of the West, the Western political system. This is a stealthy tampering with the concept and a misunderstanding of our reform. Our reform is reform that keeps us moving forward on the path of socialism with Chinese characteristics."

So, she believes, Mr Xi has his a different vision. "His political blueprint is to build a highly efficient and clean government. But whether this goal can be realised without democracy, constitutional rule, multiple parties or press freedom is the question," she says.

And Xi Jinping also posed a question to his private audience of party members. "Why must we stand firm on the party's leadership over the military?" he asked.

The answer he gave was "because that's the lesson from the collapse of the Soviet Union. In the USSR, where the military was depoliticised, separated from the party and nationalised, the party was disarmed."

And Mr Xi warned, when the Soviet Union came to crisis point "a big party was gone just like that. Proportionally, the Soviet Communist Party had more members than we do, but nobody was man enough to stand up and resist."

So for all that Mr Xi is being portrayed as a reformer, a man with a dream, Gao Yu believes he won't do anything that will destabilise China's current system. "The army is the foundation of our country, that's the way Xi thinks," says Gao Yu.

"After all he's not elected by the votes of the people, he thinks the army is the ultimate guarantee of the party's rule. The party has to control the military. It doesn't belong to the country or the people."

And she adds, Xi Jinping's vision of making China richer and stronger matters not as a goal in itself, but because it will strengthen the rule of the Communist Party.

Damian Grammaticas, China correspondent Article written by Damian Grammaticas Damian Grammaticas China correspondent

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