BEIJING – With his latest political exhortation, Chinese President Xi Jinping is asserting his influence and advancing his agenda in a time-honored tradition among Chinese leaders.
Chinese Dream, meet the "Four Comprehensives."
The four priorities described in state media this week add to Xi's growing roster of political slogans since he took leadership of the Communist Party in 2012 that promote his aims of strengthening party rule, cracking down on corruption and building up China's international standing.
The most famous has been the Chinese Dream, a fuzzy concept that seeks to motivate the nation's 1.3 billion people to realize prosperity, happiness and their rightful place on the world stage.
Modernization has diluted the impact of such slogans, but Xi hopes his will aid in his rapid consolidation of power that's already made him the most prominent Chinese leader in a quarter-century.
"Diminishing control over people's lives is an inevitable trend, but Xi is still making tremendous efforts to remain relevant by building his image," said Joseph Cheng, a Chinese politics expert at the City University of Hong Kong.
The Four Comprehensives, mentioned by Xi in a speech late last year but trumpeted in state media on Wednesday and Thursday, are essentially a repackaging of goals and concepts laid out by Xi's predecessors. They comprise "comprehensively" establishing a moderately prosperous society, deepening reform, ruling the nation by law, and strictly enforcing party discipline.
Such political shorthand is deeply rooted in Chinese political life, preceding even the establishment of the communist state in 1949. Among the most famous was Deng Xiaoping's "Four Modernizations" that sought to drag the country out of the mire of orthodox Communism.
Successor Jiang Zemin sought to make his mark with the "Three Represents," seen as an invitation to tycoons to join the party that traditionally favored workers, peasants and soldiers.
Xi is establishing himself as a far stronger leader than either Jiang or Jiang's successor Hu Jintao, among whose least memorable catchphrases was the "Eight Dos and Eight Don'ts," that sought to guide the behavior of good party members.
To do so, Xi needs to seize the authority to define the political discourse and lay out his major concerns and policy directions, said City University's Cheng. "He certainly wants to show that this is the Xi era, with a different approach," Cheng said.
The party has a vast array of tools to disseminate such propaganda, especially state media that can package them as entertainment. The Chinese Dream phrase tripped off the hosts' tongues frequently during this year's Lunar New Year gala on state broadcaster CCTV.
Next week's convening of the national legislature's annual session offers a further opportunity to embed Xi's slogans in the national consciousness, through speeches, discussion groups and banners displayed in the Great Hall of the People.
The launch of the "Four Comprehensives" sets a clear direction for reform and signals that discussions on the matter have closed, said Ren Jin, professor of law, Chinese Academy of Governance in Beijing.
"It shows that the year 2015 is the key year for comprehensively deepening reforms, as well as the beginning year for comprehensively exercising rule of law," Ren said.