Having just read an interview (translated by Nordic Institute of Asian Studies) of Xi Jinping when he was still governor of Fujian Province back in 2000, I am struck by the differences between the current Chinese political system versus the American. Think about Obama before becoming president. The largest budget he’s ever managed was probably his 2008 election campaign. From that, he would inherit a budget in the trillions of dollars. In contrast, Xi went from village to cities, and then provinces. He would be placed into bigger challenges as he excelled, and not to mention, observed in the seat of the vice president for a full term before the National Peoples Congress formally anoints him into president. As much as the Western press would like to criticize the Chinese system, it is a genuine form of meritocracy. Today’s Romney or when President Obama was still a senator would probably not stand a chance becoming president in China.
I should say, it is not clear which system works better. Some take solace in the idea that anyone (okay, provided if you are somebody within the Democratic or Republican parties) can become president. Look at how dominant America has been in these last couple of centuries. If that is not testament to success, then what is? Fair point.
Someone else may say, look at the last few millenia and count the number of centuries when China has been dominant. Fair point too.
Xi’s response on why he avoids public interviews is also telling the stylistic difference between the two systems. However, both systems claim to serve the people. Below is Xi’s articulation of that concept:
The old poet and calligrapher Zheng Banqiao wrote in his first poem “when your roots are deeply anchored in the mountains, no storms from any corner of the world can blow you down or make you surrender.” I would like to change some of the words based on my own experiences from my stay in the countryside saying: “when you are close to the grass roots and close to the people, no storms from any corner of the world can blow you down or make you surrender.” My seven years in the countryside have meant a lot to me. I have gained a deep knowledge of people, and that has been a decisive precondition for my later work.