Xi Jinping: The Governance of China book review

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By Helmut Schmidt, former Chancellor of Germany

I visited China for the first time in 1975. Since then, great changes have taken place in China's governance and diplomacy. During my visits to China over the past decades, my admiration for the country and its 5,000-year civilization has increased. President Xi Jinping's new book, which has just been published, is an inspirational piece of work.

I met Mr. Xi for the first time in Beijing in May 2012. Six months later, in November 2012, he was elected General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China. Through my observations of his two years in office, I have come to a more profound realization that during the past 40 years significant changes have taken place in the interests, concerns and perspectives of China's leading statesmen. They have, nonetheless, adhered to the country's traditions of governance and diplomacy.

In contrast to other ancient civilizations such as Ancient Egypt, the Chinese Civilization has an uninterrupted history going back 5,000 years, and is still thriving with great vitality today. The Chinese tradition, represented by Confucianism, has held a dominant role for more than 1,000 years, which means that there has never been an established state religion imposed on the whole population. Instead, Daoism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity, and Islamism have reached out to their respective audiences in peace and harmony. There have been power struggles between lords and factions, but religion has never played a key role in these. There were times when the Central Plains was occupied by the Mongolians and then the Manchurians, but they adapted their rule and conformed to Han tradition.

In the 15th century China still led the world in terms of shipbuilding, printing, and military technology, then industrialization began to sprout in Europe, followed closely by North America. In the 19th century the European powers, not yet in total control of China, established their so-called foreign settlements there, in actions spearheaded by Britain, France, Spain and Portugal. Germany was also involved. In the 19th century China suffered temporary frustration and became poor and weak; in the 20th century it endured untold miseries inflicted by Japan's mass aggression. Sun Yat-sen spent years trying to rid China of foreign occupation, and the Chinese people eventually gained victory under the leadership of Mao Zedong in 1949, when the country began reconstruction. Mao was without doubt the political leader of China at the time, and today's China was built on foundations laid by Mao.

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