Xi Jinping in Fujian: Great Care and Pragmatic Reform for the People
“I spent my beautiful youth in Fujian Province,” Xi Jinping has expressed his feelings for Fujian on many public occasions. “It lasted for 17 and a half years since I started to work there in 1985, first in the Xiamen Special Economic Zone, the mountainous Ningde, and the provincial capital Fuzhou, and then in the provincial government and the CPC Fujian Provincial
Committee. I experienced the process of Fujian’s reform and opening up, moving forward with great momentum and changing with each passing day, which has bestowed on me a deep revolutionary friendship with the cadres and people there.”
Riding the Tide
On September 3, 2017, during his keynote speech at the BRICS Business Forum, Chinese President Xi Jinping expressed his great passion for Xiamen: “Xiamen has been a trading port since ancient times as well as a gateway of China’s opening up and external cooperation. Embracing the vast ocean, the city has hosted visitors from around the world. On a personal note, Xiamen is where I started off when I came to Fujian Province to take up a new post in 1985… Today, Xiamen is a beautiful garden city with perfect harmony between man and nature.”
In 1985, Xi Jinping left Zhengding County in Hebei Province for Xiamen on the coast of the East China Sea to work as its vice mayor. It was by chance that he took office on his 32nd birthday. “I was so eager to work there because there were plenty of pilot chances for the economic reform and opening up,” he recalled.
In 1990, he became secretary of the CPC Fuzhou Municipal Committee. During his tenure there, Xi proposed the idea of further opening the city’s door to the outside world economically, forming a “golden triangle” at the Minjiang River estuary, with the opening in downtown Fuzhou and Mawei Development Zone at the core, which gradually radiated to northeastern Fujian.
At a meeting on intensifying the introduction of foreign investment on April 2, 1994, Xi Jinping stressed that opening up to the outside world was the powerful impetus and lifeline for Fuzhou’s economic progress, which was decided by its geographical location. “
Fuzhou has achieved so many fruitful results in opening its door wider to the outside world and introducing foreign investment mainly because it didn’t copy others’ experiences,” explained Xi. “It has blazed a trail featuring its own characteristics, proceeding from its reality instead of bookishness and dogmatic interpretations of guidelines of the central government.”
During his tenure there, Xi Jinping broke scores of hindrances, ideological and systematical, beefing up the reform of state-owned enterprises in Fuzhou. He paid seven visits to Jinjiang in southeastern Fujian, coming back with the “Experience of Jinjiang” from many investigations and a huge amount of research, pointing out the direction for the economic development at the county level. He initiated and led the reform of the collective forest property right system, launched a campaign to crack down on food contamination, established an inter-cooperative pattern between departments, and set up a farmland-to-table supervision mechanism for food safety, among several other reforms.
“The people are interested in more urgent and practical matters. Working hard to strengthen the country, they have made a thriving and prosperous China their mission. They are dedicated to helping China escape from backwardness as quickly as possible and want to
ensure that it will soon stand among the ranks of developed nations. In order to achieve these goals, everyone must agree that developing the economy is our political priority,” described Xi Jinping in the afterword for his book Up and Out of Poverty.
In 1988, Xi Jinping set off for Ningde, Fujian Province, as secretary of the prefectural CPC committee. Ningde was one of China’s 18 most poverty-stricken areas located in eastern Fujian, with poor infrastructural facilities. During his tenure of one year and 11 months there, he visited almost all villages and townships.
The time Xi visited Xiadang Township in Shouning County is still fresh in his memory. It was a day’s drive along the winding mountain road. “I still remember that the Party secretary of the township chopped wood at the very front. We took a shortcut along a river, each of us holding a bamboo pole,” recalled Xi. “Few cadres had paid visits there because it was remote and the road was rather bumpy. I was the first prefecture-level Party chief to visit the place.”
At that time, in some parts of Fujian, especially the povertystricken areas in the east, those living on a mountain got their living from the mountain by collecting firewood, or those living near the water lived off the water through fishing. For generations, they had lived sparsely in huts or on boats, plagued by poverty. A small wooden boat might be the only dwelling for fishermen from one generation to another.
Drifting on the water all their lives, the fishermen living on the boat were considered a special poverty-stricken group with neither houses nor land. Upon seeing the situation, Xi was so worried that he made up his mind to make a difference to their lives.
In 1997, when he served as deputy secretary of the CPC Fujian Provincial Committee, Xi was greatly touched by an investigative report on the living conditions of many villagers in eastern Fujian who still lived in huts. He wasted no time in holding a meeting and led a team to the coastal and mountainous areas in the east of the province. He submitted a report to the provincial CPC committee upon his return, suggesting that the problems of households living
in “huts” or on “boats” be solved as soon as possible.
At the end of 1998, Xi Jinping presided over an on-the-spot meeting in Fu’an, relocating the fishermen to land. A few years of unremitting efforts led these fishermen on their way to a stable life, bidding farewell to their drifting days on the water, by the early 21st Century.
During his service in Fujian, “the people” was the most repeated phrase by Xi when he talked to his colleagues in the government. “Only by bearing in mind the people and taking
everything into account for the people can we win sincere support from them.” “Regardless of position, we must act as servants of the people and always care about their security and well-being...”
Experience of Changting County
Changting County in western Fujian is one of the old revolutionary base areas, as well as one of the starting points of the Red Army’s Long March (1934-1936). However, it was one of the counties suffering the worst water and soil erosion in Fujian and even throughout the red soil region of southern China.
In November, 1999, Xi Jinping, then deputy secretary of the CPC Fujian Provincial Committee and acting governor of the province, launched a campaign to harness water and soil loss.
In February 2000, the campaign was listed among the 15 projects benefiting the people most in the province, with an annual fund of 10 million yuan from the relevant departments of Fujian.
On October 13, 2001, Xi Jinping returned to Changting for the harnessing project, where he couldn’t help but smile upon seeing the lush camphor tree he donated and planted in the spring of 2000. On June 10, 2004, Xi received a basket of waxberry from Changting, a thank-you gift from the area once hit by water and soil erosion.
Today, thanks to more than a decade of painstaking efforts, Fujian has turned out to be the leader of the country in forest coverage for many years in a row as well as the only province that enjoys “fine-quality” water, air, and ecological environment.
And that’s only one of the many endeavors Xi Jinping made for the province’s ecological progress. From Changting County to the entire province, Xi had taken practical measures to let the ecological strength serve the economy, so as to better benefit the future generations. Back to 2000, then governor Xi put forward the idea of building Fujian into an ecologically friendly province, and his initiative was put into practice: Fujian was included in the first group of provinces in the country for pilot work in 2002.
Striving for 17 and a half years in Fujian, Xi Jinping has contributed remarkably, both theoretically and practically, to a series of major sectors, such as reform, opening up, development, and Party building. His working experiences in Fujian have proven to greatly inspire his later theory and practice for the governance of China.