This presents Xi with a real challenge: He has risen to the top by winning friends and allies inside the party. Yet now that he is the leader of a dynamic, diverse and increasingly demanding society, he must gain popular support and confidence to maintain his credibility and become an effective politician.
The first thing that Xi should do is to articulate a clearer, more specific and inspiring version of the “China Dream,” and stop letting the party’s propaganda officials define it for him. The “China Dream” may include all of the economic benefits and material comfort that ordinary Chinese desire, but it will not be complete without the human rights and dignity that citizens in civilized societies take for granted.
The second thing that Xi and his colleagues need to do is to follow up with specific policies and actions that can bolster the credibility of their declared goals. Political slogans, however high-sounding, become stale when their purveyors fail to make good on their promises.
Xi may still be enjoying a honeymoon period with the Chinese public, but it is likely to be a short one. His predecessors had 10 years to carry out real reforms and accomplished little, leaving the Chinese in no mood to endure another decade of government by shibboleth.
Minxin Pei is a professor of government at Claremont McKenna College and a non-resident senior fellow at the German Marshall Fund of the US.
Copyright: Project Syndicate