In his traditional New Year's Eve address to the nation, President Xi Jinping, as is his custom, reflects back on the previous year, 2023, and forecasts forward to the coming year, 2024. Although foreign audiences may hear the structure, style and topics of Xi's annual speeches as similar, by noting fine-grained variations on big themes, one may discern how Xi is thinking and what China is planning.
President Xi begins by framing his message in the spirt of Chinese culture:"During the winter solstice, Yang is born" — "Yang" is the creative, energizing principle — and the year begins anew. It is an uplifting metaphor, recognizing what China has been through and anticipating the light and heat to come. This contrast is put into sharp relief by Xi's first words describing 2023:"We have continued to forge ahead with resolve and tenacity," implying challenges and issues. It is an honest appraisal, which transforms into an inflection point of confident expectations for the future. He said, "We have gone through the test of winds and rains… We will remember this year as one of hard work and perseverance. Going forward, we have full confidence in the future."
President Xi highlights 2023, beginning with, "We achieved a smooth transition in our COVID-19 response efforts," a nuanced phrase positioning the end of lockdowns and its consequences. China's economy is on everyone's mind, which is why Xi's words are chosen carefully. "The Chinese economy has sustained the momentum of recovery. Steady progress has been made in pursuing high-quality development." This reaffirms that high-quality development is now China's guiding economic principle. By emphasizing the emergence of "advanced, smart and green industries," Xi signifies priority directives.
He extols China marching forward with "robust steps" and that "China's innovation-driven development is full of energy." Examples stress domestic capabilities, from the C919 large passenger airliner to popular fashion brands, and includes new energy vehicles and lithium batteries, among others. "New creations and innovations are emerging every day," Xi says.
Xi extols China's "great civilization" with sweeping, confidence-building reflections from across the "great country," using geographically diverse examples, more than usual.
Internationally, Xi stresses that "China has also embraced the world and fulfilled its responsibility as a major country," and he notes his signature global affairs philosophy:"build a community with a shared future for mankind." He acknowledges that "conflicts are still raging in some parts of the world," although he does not name any specific conflict. But with respect to Taiwan, he couldn't be clearer:"China will surely be reunited," he says.
Forecasting forward, Xi recapitulates his theme that "we are bound to encounter headwinds," that "some enterprises had a tough time," and that "some people had difficulty finding jobs and meeting basic needs."
By stating publicly what many say privately, President Xi engenders credibility as he praises the people. "Our goal is both inspiring and simple," Xi says. "Ultimately, it is about delivering a better life for the people." He concludes with a traditional Chinese wish for all to have success and good health.
That's President Xi's 2024 Deep Message. I'm Robert Lawrence Kuhn.
Script: Robert Lawrence Kuhn
Editors: Duan Jiaxin, Hao Xinxin
Designer: Qi Haiming
Producer: Sun Lan
Supervisors: Xiao Jian, Adam Zhu
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