At the 18th Congress of the Communist Party of China to be held in November 2012, China’s Vice President Xi Jinping is expected to be elected as the new Secretary General of the party.
In August 2000, Xi Jinping gave a rare interview to the Chinese magazine Zhonghua Ernü. NIAS, Nordic Institute of Asian Studies hereby issues a translation of the interview in Danish and English. To our knowledge this the first time the interview has been translated into a Western language. The Danish version is a translation of the original interview in Chinese while the English version is translated from the Danish version. The translated interview was published in the Danish newspaper Politiken on Sunday 28 October 2012.
In the interview Xi Jinping tells about his background, his upbringing and his perception of good governance. In a personal and at times riveting way Xi Jinping explains how he during the Cultural Revolution only 15 years old was sent to the countryside for 7 years – 1,000 km away from Beijing – in order to learn from the peasants while his father was under political criticism. Moreover, Xi Jinping talks about the promotion of officials and corruption.
The interview is translated by the sinologists Carsten Boyer Thøgersen and Susanne Posborg. Carsten Boyer Thøgersen is a former Danish diplomat and Consul-General in Shanghai, posted for 20 years in China and now an associate of NIAS. Susanne Posborg, University of Aarhus, is the most often used Danish translator of Chinese novels and literature.
Researchers and news media are welcome to quote from the English translation if NIAS is stated as the source.
Nordic Institute of Asian Studies,
University of Copenhagen
On the Xi Jinping interview in 2000.
By Carsten Boyer Thøgersen and Susanne Posborg
Officially, the interview has never been promoted by the Chinese authorities. Neither in 2000 nor today. The interview is accessible on Chinese web-sites and was in February 2012 once more published in another Chinese commercial magazine, owned by a Xi’an based Chinese shareholding media company.
If interviewed today, Xi Jinping would probably have phrased himself differently. But the interview was already published 12 years ago, has been available since then and known to an increasingly larger Chinese public. What can the Chinese authorities do? They do nothing and do not comment on the interview.
Xi Jinping was 47 years old and governor of Fujian province when he gave the interview in 2000. At the time he was relatively unknown and not even a full member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party. It is not often but neither unusual that a governor of a Chinese province gives a long personal interview to a Chinese magazine. Looking back Xi Jinping gave the interview two years before the party leadership –known for its long-term planning – was to decide on younger candidates to be promoted at the party congress in 2002 and later – at the following party congress in 2007 – to select the possible successor of Hu Jintao in 2012. In 2007 Xi Jinping became a member of standing committee of the Politbureau, indicating he was to become Hu Jintao’s successor in 2012.
Giving the interview back in 2000, the purpose of Xi Jinping was hardly to make himself known as a potential young candidate for promotion. The party itself is fully aware of possible candidates for the party’s top positions and does not welcome reminders. Most likely Xi Jinping wanted to make sure that his background was fully understood, told properly and to stress three things: 1) During the Cultural Revolution he stayed for seven years in the countryside under difficult conditions and only by his own efforts became a member of the party and enrolled at university. That is to say not by political connections and in spite of the fact that his father at the time was under political criticism. 2) In 1982, he chose to give up a comfortable career in Beijing and instead started from the bottom as deputy secretary in a small provincial district. 3) To appear as a person in close contact to ordinary people.
The extraordinary thing about the interview is to hear what China’s new leader said in 2000 in an open and direct conversation. There is nothing unusual in what Xi Jinping said in 2000. Neither read in 2012. But we hear Xi Jinping tell about personal experiences in words he hardly would use today. We hear about his views on good governance, promotion of officials and corruption. The interview gives the reader a more authentic and unfiltered picture of the person to become China’s next leader.
Interview from the summer of 2000 in the Chinese journal Zhonghua Ernü.
Xi Jinping at the time was 47 years old and governor in the Fujian province.
Yang Xiaohuai was the editor of Zhonghua Ernü.
Copyright © 2000 by中华儿女,北京市朝阳区东三环南路98号韩建丹阳大厦15层,邮编：100021
Xi Jinping: Welcome here. I have previously said no thank you to personal interviews innumerable times. We all have different tasks. If you do not mention everybody, then you are only emphasizing yourself. You can also put it differently: When we are all doing our duty within our respective area of responsibility, then it is the community that creates the results. Therefore it makes no sense mentioning the individual. That is the reason why I have refused giving personal interviews. There are also people who write autobiographies. I do not do that either.
Yang Xiaohuai: I thought so. That kind of thing can easily lead to misunderstandings.
Xi: Particularly if you look at the popular media. You write about a person’s background. Who are his parents? Who is he married to? He is such and such a person. What’s the use of that? That kind of information is not news. It is something everybody knows already. You make a little soup of it. It is immaterial.
Yang: Obviously that kind of publicity is immaterial and superfluous. But as a high-level official you are in the focus of the formation of public opinion. The press and the media can help people better understand your work. That kind of public mention I think is important.
Xi: Of course you can write about leading officials. To a certain extent. But you must preserve the sense of proportions. There is a tendency to write that a leading official is so and so perfect and so and so excellent, but in reality nobody is perfect and consummate. Take a person and describe him as excellent. Nobody will believe it. An individual’s ability to get results on his own is limited. Without the community and without cooperation you will achieve nothing. Therefore I believe that it is better to focus on the community and cooperation.
Yang: You recently took the post as governor of the Fujian province. What new political initiatives did you consider, and what parts of the politics in progress did you wish to continue?
Xi: When I became governor in August last year, the members of the provincial government emphasized two points: Firstly that I was to continue working on the foundations laid by the previous governor. It was my task seeing to it that the plans laid down at the beginning of the year were carried through. In addition I could come with my own plans. When you have just taken over a new job you will also want to set your own agenda in the first year. But it must be on the foundations of your predecessor. It is like a relay race. You have to receive the baton properly and then yourself run it in goal.
The second point: Of course a provincial governor has an important position. But he is just one person. A provincial government consists of a governor, several deputy governors and many colleagues in the various departments. If you are to achieve results, everybody must pull in the same direction. Furthermore it is important that you make sure you have the cooperation and back-up of the whole province.
Yang: When you were sent to Ningde county as a leader, I have heard that you did not tear along ostentatiously, as many other leaders do when they come to a new place. You did not come sweeping with new brooms to make room for your own special projects. You did not use big words but proceeded slowly and patiently.