THE BLOG
10/08/2014 12:55 pm ET Updated Dec 08, 2014

How to Turn Audacity into Effective Action: China's Xi Jinping Challenges the Western Model of Governance

XI

In the past few years there have been a slew of books decrying the political decay and dysfunction of Western democracy.

In his magisterial new work, "Political Order and Political Decay," Francis Fukuyama takes a hard look at how "adversarial judicialism" has corrupted the rule of law and how the emergence of a special interest "vetocracy" has blocked change and produced gridlock in the United States.

Fukuyama's book traces many of the same themes raised by myself and Nicolas Berggruen in our book, "Intelligent Governance for the 21st Century: A Middle Way Between West and East," flagged as a "best book of the year" by the Financial Times. We argue that, in America's "consumer democracy," the short-term horizon of the voter combined with the capture of one-person-one vote elections by special interests has paralyzed the capacity of our political system to self-correct.

In a third book, "The Fourth Revolution: The Global Race to Reinvent the State," Economist editors John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge posit that we can no longer assume that an inefficient and gridlocked liberal welfare state can outcompete rising rivals in Asia, particularly China.

Now China's President Xi Jinping, who has wasted not a moment over the past two years consolidating his power, enters the global competition with a 500 page tome titled "The Governance of China." And it is in English! At great length, the most powerful Chinese leader since Mao explains to the world how China works, what it intends to do in the coming years during his tenure at the top and how its unique governing system will get it there.

The publication of Xi's book marks a new chapter of globalization. While globalization since the end of the Cold War has entailed fierce economic competition, from now on it will also entail a competition of models of governance.

Xi's book is an anti-memoir, or a memoir in reverse. Rather than the normal collection of speeches and proclamations only published once a leader is out of office and looking back at his legacy, "The Governance of China" is a manifesto of the ambitious reform path upon which China has embarked under Xi's leadership.

The book outlines what Xi means by "rejuvenating the Chinese nation" and explains the consultative decision making process of a one-party system that China's top leaders believe is more democratic - taking into account the interests of all of society - than one-person-one-vote elections. He lays down the gauntlet on corruption. He addresses the ecological challenge, the geopolitics of the "new great power relationship with the United States," the decisive shift toward the market, equality for migrant workers in the cities and ending poverty in the context of massive new urbanization. And he discusses the evolution toward the rule of law.

The Western reader, it is true, will have to wade through way too much wooden rhetoric to decipher what it all means. (One sorely missing reform is jettisoning Party-speak for plain language). Many of the fundamental transformations - for example separating the judiciary from administrative jurisdictions, thus forging independence of the courts (P. 92) --- are buried in long-winded passages. But the wade is worth the while if you want to grasp the enormity of the changes China is undergoing and how central a consensus forming - as opposed to multi-party competitive - political system is to realizing those goals.

If Barack Obama's pre-presidential biography was called "The Audacity of Hope," Xi's book could be called "How to Translate Audacity into Effective Action."

And yes, the book is available on Amazon (and also in French, Russian, Arabic, Spanish, Portuguese, German and Japanese).