Commentary

China's Xi touts people-first mantra

He has sought to level the playing field for the haves and have-nots of society

People in Shanghai watching a giant screen airing President Xi Jinping's speech at an event marking the 100th founding anniversary of the Communist Party of China on July 1. In his 70-minute speech, he said remaining loyal to the party and faithful t
People in Shanghai watching a giant screen airing President Xi Jinping's speech at an event marking the 100th founding anniversary of the Communist Party of China on July 1. In his 70-minute speech, he said remaining loyal to the party and faithful to the people is the party's source of strength.PHOTO: REUTERS

In an interview with American media network CBS ahead of his ice-breaking trip to the United States in 1997, then Chinese president Jiang Zemin invoked Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg address, reciting in English from memory: "This government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth."

Asked by his interviewer, 60 Minutes' Mike Wallace, if he was a dictator, Mr Jiang insisted that he was an "elected leader" as he was voted head of state by China's Parliament, the National People's Congress, in 1993 and again in 1998. Many, though, consider the NPC to be a rubber-stamp body.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 22, 2021, with the headline 'China's Xi touts people-first mantra'. Subscribe