Xi Jinping’s quest to build a beautiful China

The premier’s continuing initiative for conservation and recycling will require a massive public education programme. 

STROLLING down the streets of Beijing, you can’t miss the propaganda slogans in the form of huge red banners, posters or electronic billboards.

These slogans feature various messages, mostly community reminders – beware of cheating scams, watch out for fire hazards and suspicious characters, build a civilised society, and many more.

Recently, red banners and posters bearing political propaganda have increased overnight, following the opening of the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC).

Some of the messages read, “Be faithful to our original aspiration and march forward”, “Work for the happiness and well-being of the people”, “Forging ahead”, “Fight hard, develop the capital for a better tomorrow”, “Fully implement the Four Comprehensive Strategies” and “Carry out the Five-Sphere Integrated Plan”.

They are talking points, visions and strategies for China highlighted by President Xi Jinping in his three-and-a-half-hour speech at the opening of the congress from Oct 18 to 24.

The “Four Comprehensive Strategies” – building a moderately prosperous society, deepening reform, implementing the rule of law and strengthening party discipline – are Xi’s blueprint for the future of the country.

And the “Five-Sphere Integrated Plan” aims to promote coordinated economic, political, cultural, social and ecological advancement.

Propaganda slogans, which can be traced back to Chairman Mao Zedong’s era, have been widely used by the CPC to promote nationalism and government policies.

The congress, which is held once every five years, ended with the election of the top CPC leadership (the seven-member Political Bureau Standing Committee, which is also the height of power in China) successfully elected last Wednesday.

Xi, 64, was re-elected for the second term as the general secretary of the central committee of world’s biggest political party with a membership of nearly 89.5 million, as of 2016. He also heads the party’s Central Military Commission.

Another re-elected incumbent is Premier Li Keqiang.

The rest are newly promoted to replace the five retiring members. They are Wang Yang (vice-premier of the State Council), Li Zhanshu (CPC Central Committee and National Security Commission director), Wang Huning (CPC Central Committee Policy Research Office director), Zhao Leji (secretary of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection) and Han Zheng (secretary of the CPC Shanghai Municipal Committee).

As the status of China is growing with greater influence worldwide, the congress to map out the country’s strategies and plans for the next five years has caught global attention.

The party received 855 congratulatory messages from 452 political parties in 165 countries. Of them, 814 came from heads of state or government, leaders of political parties and important organisations.

At a meet-the-media session after his re-election, Xi expressed his appreciation to the media covering the event from Oct 18 to Oct 24.

He encouraged media practitioners to visit and see more of China.

“We do not need lavish praise from others. However, we do welcome objective reporting and constructive suggestions,” he said.

As everything was concluded and the delegates left for home, the life of Beijingers, which was very much affected by the tightened security, has gradually returned to normal.

The most obvious sight was the disappearance of the heavy presence of uniformed personnel on the streets and the blue sky. The air quality index shot up from less than 150 throughout the congress to a very unhealthy level of 250 last Thursday and Friday.

Over the years, China has made extensive progress in pursuing green development and ecological conservation.

Many people, whom I spoke to, be it the Chinese or Malaysians who have lived here long enough to witness the changes, said they have seen improvements.

Xi has pledged to build a beautiful China with a clean environment.

“We must continue the Beautiful China initiative to create good working and living environments for our people and play our part in ensuring global ecological security,” he said at the opening of the congress.

“We will encourage conservation across the board and promoting recycling, taking action to get everyone conserving water and cutting consumption of energy and materials.”

He was right. None of this can be carried out without the cooperation of the people.

From what I have observed over the past six months, many Chinese still lack environmental awareness.

The street rubbish bins, which have two separate slots for recyclable and non-recyclable materials, appear to be merely for display.

The worker who delivered drinking water to my apartment refused to take off his shoes and insisted that I give him disposable overshoe covers, otherwise he would have to leave the 18.9-litre bottle outside.

He is not the only one. The real estate agents, maintenance staff and technicians of my apartment and a few others whom I have dealt with have done the same. Disposable shoe covers are a must-have at home, it seems.

The Chinese also have a habit of using disposable gloves while eating dishes like crayfish and crabs instead of using their bare hands to hold the food.

And there are hundreds of tonnes of plastic bags and paper boxes produced daily from the food delivery and e-shopping businesses.

Perhaps the country could really spend more resources on creating awareness among the people towards its goal of building a clean and beautiful world.

Beh Yuen Hui , columnist