The Remarks of Xi Jinping: hot, or not?

By all available official accounts, The Remarks of Xi Jinping (习近平用典), the latest addition to the Chinese president’s bookshelf of personal writings, is making big waves. Shortly after its release on the last day of February, the book — in which the general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party applies to present-day governance the principles of the Chinese ancients — was called an exemplary work of “cultural soft power” in the official People’s Daily.

Speaking recently to the China Youth Daily, Hao Zhen (郝振), the director of the China Editors Society (中国编辑学会), said that “the topic [of the book] is right on the mark.” “We can more deeply understand the general secretary’s ideas, and much better implement his strategy of the ‘four comprehensives,’ from a cultural angle,” he said. “We can see that the general secretary’s views on governing the country stem not only from Marxism-Leninism, and from the scientific view of development, but are also closely tied to Chinese traditional culture.”

So is the book hot? Or is it just . . . not?

With such things in China, of course, we generally guess but never know for sure — until the facade of propaganda crumbles. The 2010 film “Confucius,”a state-supported biopic that, not unlike Xi Jinping’s latest book, sought to shore up Party-state legitimacy with emotional and selective portrayals of Chinese tradition, was loudly touted as a success in China’s state media. But the illusion unraveled as Chinese internet users widely panned the film, revealing also that government offices, schools and state-owned enterprises had been block-buying tickets and handing them out in a desperate bid to drum up interest. Ultimately, the film was trounced by James Cameron’s “Avatar,” an embarrassment for China’s ambition to mix nationalistic propaganda with commercial viability.

Xi Jinping book

Xi Jinping’s book is probably hot stuff in exactly the way “Confucius” was a blockbuster. As long-time China watcher Geremie Barme said recently: “The leader’s works never sell. They always have to give them away.”

Xi Jinping’s previous blockbuster book, The Governance of China, which Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg famously plugged back in December 2014 when he was host to China’s internet czar, Lu Wei, sold three million copies in its first three months — that according to China’s official news agency, Xinhua. The book’s international sales hardly suggest such a high level of appeal when the bottom-line is choice, however. A button labeled “How to Buy” on the special page for The Governance of China at — the Chinese government portal site — takes readers to, where as of today the book’s sellers rank is #284,418. By comparison, Age of Ambition, by Evan Osnos (who was The New Yorker‘s correspondent in China from 2008 to 2013), is currently ranked #6,335.

The overwrought coverage of The Remarks of Xi Jinping in official Party media, generously seasoned with servile remarks from various ministerial officials, hardly suggests bestselling confidence in the work’s broader appeal.

But whatever the case, I heartily recommend The Remarks of Xi Jinping. The book offers important insight into the way the Chinese Communist Party has in recent years progressively turned to traditional Chinese culture — or in fact, a myopic reading of traditional culture — to shore up its own legitimacy. A must-read. Five stars.

But don’t take my word for it. Here is the People’s Daily.

“Delegates Hotly Discuss ‘The Quotations of Xi Jinping‘: Positive Energy Flooding Between the Lines” (代表委员热议《习近平用典》: 字里行间充满正能量)
People’s Daily
March 15, 2015

During the two meetings [of the National People’s Congress and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference] the book The Quotations of Xi Jinping (习近平用典), compiled by the People’s Daily Publishing House, has garnered widespread attention from various quarters of society. At Xinhua-operated book selling stations situated at the NPC Conference Center, the Beijing Conference Center, the Jianyin Hotel, the [People’s Liberation Army’s] Xizhimen Hotel, the Yuanwanglou Hotel and many other NPC locations, this journalist saw a few delegates pausing to purchase and read them.

On the afternoon of March 7, after small group discussions ended, Li Dongdong (李东东), Wu Shulin (邬书林) and five other CPPCC delegates from news and publishing engaged an intense discussion of the book in the conference room of the hotel where they were staying. Everyone said that when they read The Sayings of Xi Jinping it felt very cordial, and that, as a work describing and transmitting the governance ideas of the General Secretary from a cultural angle, the book should be promoted to readers.

Delegate Wu Shulin (邬书林), deputy director of the Publishers Association of China, hit the nail on the head. “This is cultural soft power,” he said. “This book is very profound in its ideas, and its publication is timely. We’ve seen our leader inheriting from and carrying forward the ideas, culture and traditions of our people and employing these in [his own] classic [formulations], and finding wisdom and sustenance in the words of the ancients as he faces head on serious issues that await resolution.”

reading XJP[Two delegates from the Inner Mongolia Delegation staying at the Inner Mongolia Tower read through ‘The Remarks of Xi Jinping’. Photo by Bai Jianping/白建平.]

Delegate Li Dongdong (李东东), director of the China Media Culture Promotion Association (中国新闻文化促进会) said that reading the book she felt it was cordial, down-to-earth and profound. The general secretary, [she said], drew wisdom about national governance from traditional Chinese culture, and at the same time raised demands intimately linked to current economic reform and opening. The promotion of this book will have a good effect on the continued reform of work style [within the Party, she said].

[NOTE: The China Media Culture Promotion Association is an ostensible “non-profit social organization” devoted to media research and training, but Li Dongdong, its head, is also a senior press official in China, as former director of the General Administration of Press and Publications and former propaganda chief of Ningxia.

On the 10th, an employee at the Xinhua Bookstore sales station at the Beijing Conference Center said the book was selling well, and that quite a number of delegates at various hotels where NPC groups were staying were giving the book a great deal of attention. Yan Aoshuang (闫傲霜), director of the Beijing Science and Technology Center (北京市科学技术委员会), said as she read the book: “This is what it means to be confident about Chinese culture! This book systematically lays out cases showing how the general secretary has used [traditional] phrases, from ‘respect for the people‘ (敬民) to weizheng (为政) [a portion of the Analects of Confucius], to the ‘cultivation of character’ (修身) and ‘appointment by virtue’ (任贤), etcetera. This demonstrates the profound reverence the general secretary has for the greatness and profundity of traditional Chinese culture, and his confidence in the deep foundations of our civilization and the knowledge it offers about social governance. It tells all of us, each and every son and daughter of China, that only by having respect for and passing on traditional culture can we develop into the future!”

Wu Zhengxian (吴正宪), director of Mathematics Education Office of the Basic Education Research Center, Beijing Academy of Educational Sciences, said: “What we see here is the leader of a great nation uniting in feeling with the ordinary people, every word and every sentence dealing with the fate of the nation and linking closely with the hearts of the people. It’s down-to-earth, it deals with the actual situation, and positive energy floods between the lines.” [Wu said] that The Quotations of Xi Jinping is profound, incisive and full of feeling, with a philosophical bent — a good book that deserves engaged enjoyment by all. The book, [he said], isn’t at all ‘preachy’ or ‘full of hot air.'”

. . .

The reporter noticed that The Quotations of Xi Jinping had been placed in the most prominent position at the book sale kiosk. The employee [on duty there] said that this was because, first of all, the hope was that delegates would prioritize attention to this book, so it had been put in a clear position so the delegates would purchase and study it, and secondly because this book was selling best.

Top official positive on “positive” media

Last Friday, as the curtain closed on the annual session of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Congress (CPPCC), China’s mostly nominal political advisory body, the group’s chairman, Yu Zhengsheng (俞正声), arrived at the Hunan Room (湖南厅) of the vast Great Hall of the People to meet with “journalist representatives” (记者代表) from core Party-state media.

Organizations in attendance included the usual suspects: the People’s Daily, Xinhua News Agency, China Central Television, Guangming Daily, the Economic Daily, China National Radio and the English-language China Daily. And as the CPPCC chairman always does, Yu Zhengsheng praised state media for their “cooperative” and “positive” coverage of the meeting, where a dizzying 6,000 proposals were reportedly submitted.

It hardly seems newsworthy to note that press controls in China continue unabated. Nor is it newsworthy any longer to note that the press remains more cowed under Xi Jinping than perhaps at any time under his predecessor, Hu Jintao, when in-depth and investigative coverage was being progressively reined in but still stood a better chance of slipping through.

yu1[ABOVE: Politburo Standing Committee member Yu Zhengsheng, chairman of the CPPCC, praises China’s state media on Friday, March 13, for their “cooperative” attitude.]

But we can note, at least, that Xi Jinping’s notion of “positive energy” — by which he means positive and helpful news coverage and online opinion as opposed to critical and unhelpful news and views — continues to exert its influence alongside the old notion of “public opinion guidance.” Here is the summary of Yu Zhengsheng’s remarks that appeared in the official People’s Daily on March 14:

Central news units cooperated closely with, and tightly adhered to, the agenda of the meeting, maintaining correct guidance of public opinion, prioritising new methods of reporting, and fully reporting the fruitful results of the CPPCC in promoting the full building of a moderately well-off society, the comprehensive deepening of reforms, comprehensive rule of the nation according to law, and comprehensive efforts to implement strict administering of Party discipline. [The media] widely propagated the opinions and recommendations of the CPPCC Standing Committee on major questions of reform, development and stability as well as real issues of concern to the people, fully evincing the favourable impression that the CPPCC works for the good of the country and the people, and that it is doing its utmost. [The media] condensed the broader consensus [in their reporting], praised positive energy, and showed up the unified and democratic climate of the CPPCC.

In its English-language coverage of Yu Zhengsheng’s speech, in fact, CCTV America noted right in the lead that Yu had “called for continuing efforts to pool ‘positive energy’ to contribute to the country’s development.”

In China’s media, things are looking positively “positive.”

Lu Wei on the “dream of the web”

On February 9, 2015, China’s internet czar, Lu Wei (鲁炜), the director of the Cyberspace Administration of China, hosted a Chinese New Year banquet at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse. At the event, attended by foreign dignitaries and representatives from internet companies, Director Lu delivered an address in which he reiterated the need for global internet governance that respects the “internet sovereignty” of various countries.

Repeating his frequent theme that freedom and order must work hand-in-hand, Lu imagined an international internet woven together from sovereign national internets — connected with a mind to respective national security interests.

“We live in a common online space,” Lu Wei told his guests. “This online space is made up of the internets of various countries, and each country has its own independent and autonomous interest in internet sovereignty, internet security and internet development. Only through my own proper management of my own internet, [and] your proper management of your own internet . . . can the online space be truly safe, more orderly and more beautiful.”

lu wei new year

A separate news piece posted to the website of the Cyberspace Administration of China quoted several guests at the banquet as praising Lu’s remarks and the work of his office.

“2014 was a year in which China’s internet saw an explosion of positive energy,” said Liao Hong (廖玒), the president of People’s Daily Online, referring to Xi Jinping’s emerging propaganda concept. “Under the guidance of the Cyberspace Administration of China, the internet space grows clearer and brighter every day.”

“The Cyberspace Administration of China has played an instrumental role in terms of internet governance,” Cuban Ambassador to China Alberto J. Blanco Silva reportedly said.

A full translation of Lu Wei’s address to the Chinese New Year banquet follows.

Honored envoys from various nations, respected guests:

Ladies, gentlemen and friends:

And so we come to another year. As China’s Lunar New Year approaches, we are honored to invite everyone to gather here at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse (钓鱼台国宾馆), to meet the season with cheerful friendship. On behalf of the Central Working Group on Cybersecurity, the Cyberspace Administration of China, and in my own capacity, I solemnly offer you all a warm welcome. The new year is the Year of the Goat. I wish you all warmth and radiance in your hearts.

2014 was a year of accelerated internet development in China, a year of greater openness and deep integration with the world. China created the Central Working Group on Cybersecurity, with Chairman Xi Jinping himself as leader, and [he] raised the international cyber governance concept (国际治网主张) of “building a multilateral, democratic and transparent system of international internet governance, building in common a peaceful, secure, open and cooperative online space” — [an idea] that won great favor and widespread agreement in international circles. Through common efforts on various sides, the international online space is now entering a new era of shared benefit and shared governance.

All of you, foreign envoys, company bosses and friends from the media, are the bridges and bonds developing China’s relationship with the world, and you’ve made important achievements in promoting dialogue and cooperation between China and the world in the online space. We often say mutual interaction brings mutual understanding . . . The web connects us and brings us together. In traditional Chinese culture, the character for “net” [or “web”] has multi-layered meanings, but there are at least three angles from which we can consider these meanings:

1. The “net” means to harvest gains and results. This is like the frequent saying Chinese have, that “the net gathers all under heaven” (网罗天下). Over the past year, China’s internet development has been striking, with the number of internet users reaching 649 million, websites surpassing four million, total online transactions topping 13 trillion yuan. Of the world’s top 10 internet businesses, four are Chinese, and the internet economy has become the greatest growth point in China’s overall economy. The world too has profited from the development of China’s internet. Many foreign enterprises have relatively high market shares in the Chinese market, and they have drawn in substantial earnings. These achievements and returns fully demonstrate the openness of China’s market and policies, that the environment is favourable. Moreover, they show to the fullest extent that we are correct in adhering to the path of socialism with Chinese characteristics. They fully attest to the strong, determined and correct leadership of the Chinese Communist Party.

2. The “net” means connecting and interacting. This is like what Chinese mean when they say, “As tightly woven as a net” (密如织网). Lately, the internet truly has turned the world into a global village, making it so that international society is more an more a place where I see myself in you, where we share a fate as a common community. For China and the world the internet has also created a friend groups with a global reach. We have actively created platforms for conversation, holding the first World Internet Conference and other major international events, making friends across the world and sharing intelligence and innovation, ultimately working toward a consensus to create a win-win situation for all.

3. The “net” means law and order. Chinese often talk about the “dragnet” (法网恢恢). In the online space, people all enjoy freedom, but freedom and order are inextricably linked and cannot be separated. Order is the guarantee of freedom. If we part with order, freedom does not exist. The more we move in the direction of freedom, the more we need order. Find a place without order, and that place will surely lack freedom. We [in China] actively study from the advanced experiences of various nations, promoting rule of law in the online space. Through legal means we preserve online freedom and order, resolutely protecting our internet sovereignty (网络主权) and our internet security (网络安全). We reiterate that China’s policy of openness to the world has not changed. So long as China’s laws are respected, so long as the national interests of China are not harmed, so long as the interests of Chinese consumers are not harmed, we welcome companies from other countries to develop in China, to invest here for a win-win future.

Ladies, gentlemen and friends . . . .

We live in a common online space. This online space is made up of the internets of various countries, and each country has its own independent and autonomous interest in internet sovereignty (独立自主的网络主权), internet security and internet development. Only through my own proper management of my own internet, your proper management of your own internet, and the proper interlinking of these respective internets, each preserving their own respective internet security — only then can the online space be truly safe, more orderly and more beautiful.

What we need its mutual support, not stepping over lines and meddling in the affairs of others. What we need is mutual respect, not attack and censure. The 1.3 billion people of China, open and confident, are now traveling along a correct path of their own choosing. They are realizing the great project of the Chinese dream. They are seeking a path of internet management with Chinese characteristics (中国特色的治网之道). We are ready to strengthen our dialogue and cooperation with the nations of the world, unleashing the pioneering creative force of the internet and promoting the “one road, one belt” strategy. [We are ready to] promote the shared governance and mutual benefit of the internet, better serving the countries of the world, particularly developing nations, and creating a better tomorrow for humankind.

Ladies, gentlemen and friends . . .

Let us raise our glasses,
for a better world,
for sincere friendship,
to the health of all,
for our mutual internet dreams in the Year of the Goat.


The buzzing flies of the West

The following piece, published on Monday this week on the website of the official Party journal Seeking Truth, arguably speaks to the heart of China’s current political and ideological ethos. The piece pulls together quite disparate threads — an article from the Financial Times‘ Beijing bureau chief Jamil Anderlini, and a report almost a year ago from Bank of America Merrill Lynch — to paint a stark picture of foreign “hostile forces” colluding with domestic “agents” to foment a color revolution on Chinese soil.

The Seeking Truth piece, written by Hou Lihong (侯立虹), identified as a local government employee from Henan, speaks well enough, and colourfully enough, for itself. So I’ll avoid the temptation to say more.

Readers not new to hardline bombast of this kind will recognize the teeth-grinding, vitriolic tone. Hou writes at one point of “evil collusion between [overseas] master and [domestic] servant, and of “hostile forces working within China.” Voices like Anderlini and Bank of America Merrill Lynch are “flies flicking against the wall, droning on and on.”

Please enjoy.

Defiling China’s Anti-Corruption Drive is Like an Ant Trying to Shake a Tree

The extraordinary measures employed in China’s anti-corruption drive, and the brilliant achievements it has so far made, have already astonished the entire world, becoming a focus of international media coverage. For example, the Times of India, Singapore’s Lianhe Zaobao and Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post, . . . have all done positive coverage of the campaign against corruption in China’s government and military . . . Even certain [media in] some countries in Europe and America, like United Press International’s web-based report called, “Internet Users Help Expose Corruption,” and “Life and Death Struggle” in Britain’s Economist, have reported on the actions and attitudes of China’s leaders toward corruption . . .

Yet still certain Western countries and media, for whatever reason, with whatever goals, voice concern over China’s anti-corruption [campaign], and moreover take a hostile attitude, even conjuring things out of thin air, making conjectures, dragging the name of China’s anti-corruption effort through the dirt. This is outrageous. In its 2013 Human Rights Report, the United States, while giving a nod to China’s achievements in punishing corrupt officials, made groundless accusations about the selectivity of the anti-corruption drive, casting doubt on our Party’s internal discipline procedures. As I understand it, the United States has always prioritized its human rights reports, wielding them as clubs with which to beat other countries. For it to play the part of backseat driver in this way, in such an important government document, clearly violates the convention in diplomatic relations of not interfering in the internal affairs of other countries.

corruption flies[ABOVE: A cartoon on a Chinese website depicts corruption as a swarm of flies. The fly swatter, of course, represents China’s anti-corruption campaign.]

Even more cause for thought is the fact that this country’s Bank of America Merrill Lynch stated strongly that the anti-corruption drive had borne an economic cost running into hundreds of millions of US dollars, “perhaps equivalent to the entire economy of Bangladesh.” And with malice it said that “even clean and uncorrupt officials don’t dare right now to begin new projects, worrying that this will be construed as corrupt conduct, and so they simply stash their funds away in the bank.” Next, it made a great fuss over how “Beijing’s bans on consumption with public monies and mandated decreases in administrative spending had caused a dramatic drop in domestic consumer spending.” . . .

The implication in these statements . . . is that China’s anti-corruption drive has negative side effects. And if this is still rather obscure, well then, Britain’s Financial Times is undisguised [in its statements]. An article in this magazine attributed to [Jamil] Anderlini misrepresents outright, making crazy and ridiculous claims about China’s top leaders, labeling China’s anti-corruption campaign “authoritarian anti-corruption” (独裁式反腐), slandering determined anti-corruption as “a [political] movement,” in “Cultural Revolution style” (文革遗风). . .

Anyone with a bit of common sense knows that corruption is already a common enemy around the world. All countries, even those with reputations for clean governance, have corruption — and all should fight corruption, as successive world declarations against corruption have fully made clear. What is strange is that when corruption is raging in China, this draws attack from public opinion in the West. And now, when China is dealing resolutely with corruption, they are still spewing calumnies. This exposes their true faces, as determined at any time to set China up as the enemy.

It goes without saying that China’s anti-corruption drive is China’s own business, not something they need to say anything about. And yet these eminent Westerners (洋大人) not only oppose it but maliciously spread rumors with a mind to doing harm, labeling it in all sorts of [prejudicial] ways. This has reached the point of madness. Is it possible that China’s anti-corruption drive has set off their central nervous systems, jabbed at their sore spots, dug their graves? Clearly, for Western hostile ones (敌对分子) to oppose China’s anti-corruption campaign so vigorously, to so boldly blacken China’s leaders, demonstrates that our anti-corruption drive has already logged achievements that have left our enemies frightened. It demonstrates that China’s leaders are men of conscience who make our enemies jealous and fearful. It demonstrates that the anti-corruption momentum in China will root out the infiltrators hiding in their nests behind the curtain, that it will defeat the conspiracy by Western countries to change the color of China. So naturally anti-China forces in the West will stamp in rage.

The faces of the people of China are wreathed in smiles to look at today’s anti-corruption drive, and to think back on those years when the anti-China chorus was so loud. This certainly puts corrupt officials and hostile ones in a state of constant anxiety . . . so they must, like so many flies flicking against the wall, drone on and on . . . Like ants shaking the tree, their calumnies are doomed to fail.

When you compare the slanderous statements of Western hostile forces about China’s anti-corruption actions to certain domestic statements inhibiting or opposing anti-corruption, you can’t help but notice a similar stink about them. Concerning economic development, for example, there are some in China who say that anti-corruption has impacted economic development, and overseas there are others echoing them, saying China’s anti-corruption drive has cost 100 billion US dollars. Then, for example, you have some people saying domestically that anti-corruption is about eliminating opposition, and then right away overseas they slap on the label “authoritarian anti-corruption.” . . .

How, all in all, are we seeing such things of a similar nature? For this chorus to sing in such unison, like a seamless heavenly robe — if this is not foreign-domestic collusion, what then is it? If it is not evil collusion between master and servant, what then is it? We have always been alert to infiltrants; we have always been aware of hostile forces working within China to carry out a color revolution (颜色革命). We never thought these dangerous elements would be working right at our side, corrupt officials and “elites” (精英) making trouble. Their collaboration with forces from the outside demonstrates even more the necessity of the anti-corruption drive, and demonstrates even more the necessity of carrying the anti-corruption project to the end.

Western hostile forces and their domestic agents seek right now to use public opinion to launch crossfire from the inside and outside, attempting to kill the anti-corruption drive. In the future, they will employ even more base and insidious means to attack us. We must remain increasingly alert to this. . . If only the entire Party and all the people of our country are resolutely united around the Central Committee with Xi Jinxing as General Secretary, millions united as one man, can we surely carry the anti-corruption struggle through to the end, creating a brightness that raises the eyes of the world, and soon bringing to realization the Chinese dream.

(The writer’s office: Science and Technology Bureau, Xinxiang City, Henan province)

People power and order under heaven

The following post by former CMP fellow Zhang Ming was made to his blog on February 9, 2015. Zhang’s own follow-up post on Sina Weibo announcing the new blog entry was deleted just a few hours later, according to JMSC’s Weiboscope. Zhang’s piece clearly prompts the reader to make inferences about China’s current politics, in particular the apparently growing power of President Xi Jinping, and a corresponding unwillingness to stomach dissenting voices.

“Those Who Hear Only the Voice of Power” (只听得懂权力声音的人)

Media reported last September about the dumping of waste in the Tenggeli Desert by a chemical enterprise in the Alxa League’s Tenger Industrial Park (阿拉善盟工业园区) in Inner Mongolia. The story was irrefutable, a conspicuous pit of waste there for all to see, and noxious smells wafting across the landscape. And yet local government officials found a hundred different ways to shirk responsibility. Local environmental officials even personally attested that nothing whatsoever had gone wrong.

Fast forward one month. After written instructions from topmost national leaders, the situation changed dramatically. The denials promptly stopped. Authorities in Inner Mongolia called meetings to discuss solutions to what suddenly became a crisis. Everyone sprang so resolutely into action we could only look on tongue-tied. It was subsequently reported that the whole matter had been swept under the carpet four years earlier, after an initial round of press coverage.

The problem of pollution in China is severe. Mass incidents are common. Forced property demolitions proceed unstoppably. Justice is constantly trampled through the court system. But none of the serious local problems looming behind these cases have any hope of resolution in our country unless powerful leadership elites step forward with hand-of-God interventions.

There are those here in China who understand nothing but the voice of power. They may fear exposure by the media, but only as a proxy to the real fear, that leaders above them might find out. Only the latter fear will prompt them to manage a crisis, usually by paying up to ensure the problem disappears.

Since ancient times, those in the circles of power in China have always understood the voice of power best. Because only the voice of power can decide the fate of an official, whether he advances like the tide or sinks like a stone. Power had only one source in ancient China — the emperor. There was no power to speak of aside from imperial power. There was no true law. There was no real public opinion. There were no moral codes or ethical strictures.

In those days, the more forceful administrative power was, the easier it became for officials lower down the chain of command to understand and accede. There was no need for explicit commands. Just a whiff from the center of power, and everyone below would drift in that direction. And naturally, calls and clamors from other quarters were that much easier to ignore.

In any era, to have an officialdom that can act only as a function of fear, that cannot conduct itself in accord with a system of rules and laws — this is a tragedy for emperors, big and small, as well as for the people.

qianlong emperor in court dress
[ABOVE: The Qianlong Emperor(September 25, 1711 to February 7, 1799) depicted in his court attire.]

Imagine that across the breadth of the country, every chess piece played must be played at the pinnacle of power. If, as emperor, you don’t make a concerted move, that piece will move of its own accord. It is you who must be responsible for the outcome of the game, whether there is order or chaos. You must direct the movements of the pieces, not losing sight of a single one. If you tire in the course of the game, or if you let down your guard — well then, emperors big and small will make their own moves on all sides of you. Before long, other voices of power will emerge and hold sway, and then all bets are off.

In our ancient past, those emperors with a bit of wisdom understood that the world under heaven (天下) was for the people under heaven. This being the case, one person could not be expected to take responsibility for all.

When the media and the people are ignored — or in the most egregious case, persecuted — for trying to speak up and take responsibility for the world around them, we can be sure this will lead to chaos.

As the old saying goes, “Responsibility for the rise and fall of a nation rests with the common folk” (天下兴亡,匹夫有责). For centuries now have we shouted these words. But if the common folk are to take responsibility, it follows that they must have power. If they haven’t even the power to demand responsibility, then chaos is in store under heaven.

zhang ming blog