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Xi Jinping Discusses Leadership


In this 1993 interview with Xi Jinping, then serving as Secretary of the Fuzhou Municipal Party Committee, he argues that a leader capable of leading China to modernization and prosperity should be “courageous and knowledgeable,” adhere to “firm beliefs,” be in touch with the “will of the masses,” and hold a “profound understanding of the…policies of the central and provincial party committees.”

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The key to implementing the spirit of the Party’s 14th National Congress, accelerating economic construction, and deepening reform and opening up lies in leadership. As for how to excel in leadership in the new situation, leading cadres at the grass-roots level have raised many questions. Recently, we brought these questions before Comrade Xi Jinping, Secretary of the Fuzhou Municipal Party Committee.


Question: In your opinion, what new leadership concepts should be established in a socialist market economic system? What old leadership concepts and methods should be changed?


A: To excel in the grand socialist market economy, for leading cadres at all levels, it is not only necessary to deeply understand the great significance of developing a socialist market economy, but also to reform ideas, earnestly grasp the operating laws and requirements of the socialist market economy, deeply understand and familiarize oneself with the market, and constantly enhance market awareness. This specifically includes establishing the concept of market-oriented decision-making, daring to be the first in the world, daring to break past old rules and regulations, and daring to tear down barriers. We must establish the concept of talent-based competition, boldly select, actively cultivate, and strive to introduce all kinds of talents who have both ability and political integrity and who have the courage and knowledge to adapt to the needs of market economic development. We must also establish and strengthen new leadership concepts, break through the shackles of backward traditional concepts and subjective prejudices, and change old leadership concepts and styles of leadership. This mainly means breaking past the misconception that the development of the commodity economy and the market economy be regarded as “deviant” and thereby further emancipating minds.


In terms of leadership, it is necessary to break through administrative monopolies, decentralize power to the market and enterprises, abandon “power interception,” and “release the waters to attract more fish,” which is the primary task of establishing a market economic system. To this end, our leaders must liberate themselves from the old executive orders and the awareness of superiors, let enterprises “play the leading role” in the market economy, focus government functions on macro-control, formulate market economic rules, promote fair competition, solve problems for enterprises, and guide the healthy development of the economy.


Q: What should be the most important qualities of a leader in this new situation?


A: I think that under the new situation of reform and opening up, in addition to requiring leaders to have the basic qualities of emancipating their minds and seeking truth from facts, the most important thing is to be creative. Only creative leaders can excel at leading reforms, promoting reforms, and making work dynamic, vigorous, enterprising, and effective.


To be creative, we must first establish firm beliefs. If a leader is bewildered by the temporary low tide of the international communist movement and loses confidence in building a strong socialist country with Chinese characteristics with pessimism and disappointment, what kind of creativity is there? Second, you must be courageous and knowledgeable. In the tide of reform and opening up, a leader must be filled with the spirit of “breakthrough,” must dare to experiment, dare to break through boldly, and dare to blaze new paths and begin new careers. This is manifested in work that is instilled with a strong sense of progress and leaders that excel at grasping opportunities, possess unique insights, and have the sensitivity to understand the situation and predict prospects. It is manifested in leaders that dare to think and do the work, grasp it accurately, securely, and practically, and are able to achieve outstanding work performance on this difficult and tortuous road. Third, we must master the “two ends.” The first is orders from above. Leaders must have a profound understanding of the guidelines, lines, and policies of the central and provincial party committees. The second is the lay of the land. Leaders must accurately understand the actual situation of the region, the local government, and the will of the masses. Only by organically combining the two can we work creatively in practice.


Q: In accelerating reform, opening up, and modernization, what is the most important aspect of making good leadership decisions?


A: To make leadership decisions, first of all, we must adhere to the scientific nature of decision-making, act in accordance with the objective laws of social and economic development, be truth-seeking and pragmatic, and proceed from reality. This is the most important aspect of current leadership decision-making. In the process of reform, opening up, and modernization, due to the different conditions in different places, development has not been balanced. This requires us to proceed from local realities, to adhere to a positive and realistic attitude, and to constantly grasp the changing economic development conditions and trends. We must seize every opportunity to promote and advance the extraordinary and high-speed development of the economy.


Second, we must adhere to the democratic nature of decision-making. The essence of socialist leadership is to seek the interests of the broad masses of the people. Therefore, leaders must always take the idea of seeking benefits for the people and keeping in close contact with the masses as the fundamental ideology of decision-making. This requires us to implement broad democracy in decision-making, to adhere to the ideological line of coming from the masses and going to the masses, to listen carefully to the opinions of the masses, and to excel at concentrating the wisdom of the masses. During the years I worked in Fuzhou, I gradually formed a set of effective working methods: The first was to carry out large-scale city-wide work methodology research activities for three consecutive years, allowing cadres and the masses to review the implementation of various work and practical affairs of the municipal party committee and government in the previous year and to put forward work suggestions for the new year. The second was to carry out on-site office meeting activities at the grassroots level to keep abreast of the real situation of the counties (cities), districts, and departments and to help resolve practical problems in a timely manner at the grassroots level. The third was to carry out the activities of leading cadres to jointly visit the masses. The leaders gained direct face-to-face, heart-to-heart experiences with the masses to exchange ideas, listen to the voices of the masses, understand the sufferings of the masses, and resolve the problems of the masses in a timely manner.


Q: In the current situation where there is much work to be done, what should be the most important work for leaders?


A: The tasks before us are indeed burdensome and arduous. In this case, I believe that leaders must be good at seeing the big picture. Rather than trying to attend to big and small matters as one who grasps the eyebrows and the beard all at once, in order to think about, plan, and seize big things, a leader’s main energy must be devoted to the overall, directional, and key issues. In recent years, our municipal party committee has paid more attention to getting rid of the entanglement of affairs, focusing on the overall situation, concentrating on and doing a good job of some major events that can affect and drive the overall situation, thereby winning the initiative in our work. For example, in this past period, we organized a special team to study and formulate the Strategic Vision for Fuzhou City’s 20-Year Economic and Social Development. The strategic goals, priorities, and measures for the future development of our city were put forward, formulating a programmatic document to guide the city’s work. Under the strategic guidance of the city’s economic and social development, the key to developing an export-oriented economy is to do a good job in attracting investment, play our “cards” and “billiards,” and continuously expand the scale and field of foreign capital utilization. Adjust the economic structure, mainly to optimize primary industries, adjust secondary industries, vigorously develop tertiary industries, and promote the rapid and healthy development of the national economy. In urban construction, we must focus on the renovation of old cities and create a good social environment for reform and opening up. Because of clear goals and a prominent focus, positive factors were effectively mobilized in all aspects, forming an absolute advantage in solving problems as a whole.


Q: Fuzhou has made remarkable achievements in the renovation of the old city. What has been the overall experience in terms of leadership?


A: Since the reform and opening up, especially in recent years, Fuzhou has carried out multi-channel, multi-form, and multi-level renovation of the old city, already renovating more than half of the area. This has greatly improved the urban investment environment and the living conditions of citizens, both of which are remarkable results. From the perspective of leadership decision-making, the key has been to seize the great opportunity of reform and opening up to give full play to the role of Fuzhou as a capital city, a central city, and a historical and cultural city, using the geographical advantage of being close to Hong Kong and Taiwan to emancipate the mind. This boldly and decisively combines the urgent desire of the general public to improve our living environment with the requirements of the times to transform, build, and beautify the city, so that they complement each other and achieve the best of both worlds. Specifically, there are the following four aspects. The first is to strengthen leadership and unify planning. The renovation of the old city should be listed as an important task in economic construction, and we should work closely with one another to strengthen the organization, planning, policies, and management so that the renovation of the old city can develop in a comprehensive, complete, and healthy way. The second is to emancipate the mind and actively explore. We must boldly innovate, dare to venture, dare to take risks, dare to try, and take an unconventional and leaping development path so that the transformation of the old city will continue to develop in depth and breadth. The third is to introduce foreign capital to advance and formulate preferential policies to encourage foreign businessmen to participate in the renovation of the old city. Currently, our foreign participation rate is over 50%. The fourth is to believe in the masses and rely on the masses, firmly establish a sense of responsibility and mission for the benefit of the people, follow the path of the masses, consider and take care of the legitimate interests of the masses, and gain the care, understanding, support, and participation of the masses, so that the renovation of the old city can proceed smoothly.


Q: How can young leading cadres do their jobs well under the new situation?


A: The new situation of reform and opening up has put forward new tasks and new requirements for young leading cadres. In order to adapt to such a situation and successfully complete the work assigned by the Party and the people, we must pay attention to the following relationships:


The first is the relationship between heritage and innovation. The development of the economy and culture is a matter of heritage. Young leading cadres should not deny or abandon the achievements of their predecessors, but should rather humbly learn from their elder comrades, constantly enrich and improve themselves, and continue to develop on this basis, making innovations within this heritage, spur reform and opening up and economic construction to a new stage in innovation, and enhance leadership ability in innovation. Only in this way can the continuity and stability of leadership work be maintained.


The second is the relationship between power and duty. In particular, young leading cadres should establish the idea that “leadership is service” and strengthen their awareness of public servants. It should be clearly recognized that the power of leaders is endowed by the Party and the people and can only be used for the people rather than for personal gain. Become a leader with “great power that does not forget the heavy responsibility and respect and that does not forget one’s core of public servitude,” unite power with responsibility and service, and maintain and utilize power well to serve the people.


The third is to adhere to the relationship between collective leadership and daring to be responsible. With the deepening of reform and opening up, the tasks faced are becoming more and more arduous, and the situation is becoming more and more complicated. The knowledge and ability of leaders alone cannot resolve these issues. We must concentrate everyone’s wisdom, work together, and succeed. This requires young leading cadres to conscientiously adhere to and improve the collective leadership system, establish and implement a scientific division of labor and responsibility, give full play to the role of each and every team member, and prevent individuals from having the final say. At the same time, young leading cadres must have the spirit of being highly responsible to the Party and the people, and at the critical moment when they must make decisions, they must stand up, have the courage to take responsibility, and dare to make decisions.


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Cite This Page

习近平 (Xi Jinping). "Xi Jinping Discusses Leadership [习近平谈领导]". CSIS Interpret: China, original work published in Leadership Essays [领导文萃], March 2, 1993

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