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When I Met Xi Jinping

I was informed in late November that the State Administration of Foreign Experts Affairs (SAFEA) had invited me to a whole-day meeting in Beijing to discuss my impressions of the 18th National Party Congress and give advice to the Chinese government. I had no idea the meeting would include Xi Jinping, the party’s new general secretary.

I didn’t spend much time preparing my talking points for the SAFEA meeting; I just wanted to repeat the importance of reform. It’s been said by Chinese scholars and some officials many times, and I hoped to move it forward via the voice of a foreigner.

About twenty foreign experts from sixteen nations spent two hours at the meeting. I was the only Japanese. Unfortunately, the translating took too much time and I didn’t get a chance to speak.

The director of SAFEA, Zhang Jianguo, told us that we would go to the Great Hall of the People. And then Xi would listen to our advice.

This news was very exciting. I decided to think over what I wanted to say. I gobbled my lunch and thought about my points.

For years, I’ve worked in the Chinese investment banking industry. The stock market has always been my focus. The market reflects both short-term and long-term structural changes in the economy.

The biggest long-term challenges facing China are aging and urbanization, and Japan can offer experience and lessons on both. Japan has been a silver society for a long time and finished the urbanization process in the 1970s. Its policies on employment, affordable housing, education, annuities, and medical care can all be borrowed by China.

Current China-Japan relations, however, make me sad. Despite the politics, bilateral communications should be enhanced, rather than halted. Widening the communication lines should be a wish of both peoples. It might sound naïve to say, but at this very important moment before meeting Xi, this topic was burning in my mind.

At about 3:30 p.m., a bus took us to the Great Hall. After waiting for half an hour inside Xinjiang Hall, we walked into the opposite Fujian Hall, where Xi and other Chinese leaders greeted us.

Surrounded by many reporters, each of us shook hands with Xi, while Zhang from SAFEA stood beside him making introductions.

“I worked for CITIC Securities, for Chang Zhenming (chairman of CITIC Group) and Wang Dongming (chairman of CITIC Securities),” I said, figuring Xi might know these two men.

“Is the headquarters of CITIC Securities in Beijing?” asked Xi.

“The registered headquarters is in Shenzhen, but most of managers are in Beijing,” I said.

“Good,” he answered in a booming voice, and smiled.

After shaking hands, we lined up for photos. Afterward, Xi took the center seat in the hall, and other party leaders, including Ma Kai (state councilor), Zhao Leji (head of the party’s Organization Department), Dai Bingguo (state councilor), and Li Zhanshu (director of the General Office of the Central Committee), sat by his side.

Xi, dressed in a nice-fitting dark blue suit and light blue tie, started by saying: “The 18th National Congress has just finished, and this is the first time I have met foreign guests as General Secretary.”

“I spent seventeen years working in Fujian, first in two cities, and then as the provincial governor,” said Xi. He pointed to the decoration on the wall and introduced to us the most famous scenery in the coastal province.

I started to get nervous. Since we were told that only four of us would have the chance to speak, should I raise my hand now?

While I was hesitating, the Spanish expert who is co-president of the China Europe International Business School, started talking. There was a microphone in front of him. I took a look and found four experts with microphones and speech scripts on the table. It was all arranged.

Xi listened carefully and took some notes. After each speaker he gave a response, such as: “Very good points. We will think about how to adopt it,” or “Two points you raised impressed me.”

After the speeches by foreign experts, Xi told the members of the audience that the goals listed in the report of the 18th Party Congress were not hastily determined by a few top leaders, but were the result of incorporating advice and opinions from a lot of people within or outside the party. Now, the task was how to resolve current problems while keeping those goals in mind. One key was for countries to foster peaceful world development, to which China would contribute.

“[Meeting] our goal eventually will rely on the efforts of us Chinese, but needs support from people around the world,” Xi said.

He added that while pursuing national interests, China had to respect the interests of others. And he said its rise was not a threat to other countries, but an opportunity for them. China is both an advocate and a practitioner of win-win cooperation, he said.

“Foreign friends contributed to China’s revolution and development,” Xi said. “History taught us the hard lesson that we can’t close our doors to development, but have to unswervingly continue the path of reform and opening up.”

He added that “China will never seek hegemony.”

Xi said his remarks were his opinions, clarifications, and a declaration of foreign policy.

After the meeting, Xi and other party leaders saw us off at the gate. Shaking hands again, I told him in Chinese that was touched by his remarks. China is facing more friction as a result of its growth, I said, and it’s important to clarify the nation’s policies.

“Your Chinese is very good,” Xi said.

“My parents worked in Beijing in the 1960s and ’70s, and I lived in Beijing, too,” I said.

The meeting lasted one hour and twenty minutes, and the only speaker from China was Xi.

I regret not having had an opportunity to make a remark, but perhaps it was better than for me to say what was on my mind, which might have caused him trouble.

It was dusk, and Tiananmen Square was all lit up as we walked outside from the hall. As I felt the chill of Beijing winter, I reflected on the meeting with Xi with memories of old Beijing dancing in my head.

I spent several years in the capital during the Cultural Revolution. Observing my friends, I knew perfectly well what a shock it could bring to children when all of a sudden their parents who were also high party cadres were labeled the offspring of counter-revolutionaries. I could only imagine what a scar such an experience would leave on a person.

After decades working in cities and provinces, Xi is now China’s leader. He is mild, determined and carries the heritage of a revolutionary family. What did he really want to convey to we foreigners? I can summarize his speech with three points: China will continue reform and opening up, will contribute to the peaceful development of the world, and will never seek hegemony.

As the world’s second-largest economy, China’s actions are closely watched by everyone, and Chinese people should also be clear about these principles when dealing with foreigners.

Caixin Media Company Limited is a media group dedicated to providing high-quality and authoritative financial and business news and information through periodicals, online content, mobile apps,...

By Tokuchi Tatsuhito. This story was originally published at Caixin on December 19, 2012.

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Long Ride for Justice

CAIXIN

Lea Cao had his first inkling that something was wrong when he got a long-distance phone call from relatives in southeastern China.His family members in Fuzhou phoned Cao in New York to say that his parents and brother had failed to arrive at the local train station as scheduled...

Caixin Media

09.05.12

Making a Killing on Herbal Medicine

CAIXIN

Mushroom gatherers converge and crawl on hillsides in Qinghai province every March while foraging for wild caterpillar fungus.Theirs is not a garden-variety morel hunt. Caterpillar fungus is a hard-to-find parasite that infects and mummifies a host before forming a mushroom, the...

Caixin Media

08.31.12

Tall Order in Ordos

CAIXIN

A desert city infamously littered with new but vacant apartment buildings and idle construction sites is getting no relief in the parched climate for local government budgets.Ordos, where local leaders have been trying for years to build a thriving community almost from scratch,...

Caixin Media

08.25.12

Gu Kailai: Getting Away with Murder?

CAIXIN

Closer Look: Nearly Getting Away with MurderBy Zhang JianjingShortly after Bogu Kailai received a death sentence with a two-year reprieve, four former high-ranking Chongqing police officers were sentenced to jail terms ranging from five to eleven years. Each officer was convicted...

Caixin Media

08.18.12

Economist Lin Yifu on State-Sustained Growth

CAIXIN

Standing up to a wave of pessimism about China’s prospects for continuing high-level economic growth is no easy task.But economist Lin Yifu, who recently retired as a senior vice president and chief economist at the World Bank, is holding his ground with a prediction that China...

Caixin Media

08.13.12

We Make It Pour, Declare Cloud-Seeders

CAIXIN

Will it be clear or gray skies today? Increasingly, the answer in China may be decided by the government.The Chinese have been seeding clouds for decades. Airplanes equipped with rocket-launchers and chemicals for inducing rainfall are based in thousands of counties across the...

Caixin Media

08.09.12

Subsidized Cartoons, Comics Tickling Too Few

CAIXIN

Breaking into the animated film industry usually requires a basic plan for blending colorful images and clever storytelling in ways that entertain the public—and make money.Since 2006, however, animated film start-ups in China have done quite well with a lot less effort by...

Caixin Media

08.03.12

Queerly Not Dangerous

CAIXIN

Several authors of a “danmei” fiction website were recently detained by authorities. The injustice is so glaringly obvious that I can’t stop myself from saying something.Danmei (or “boys' love”) fiction is particularly interesting only to a minority. The idea comes from...

Caixin Media

08.02.12

Landlords of the Rings Push Urban Rents Higher

CAIXIN

A twenty-six-year-old woman who moved to Beijing from a distant town for work could be a poster child for urban China’s latest housing market phenomenon: skyrocketing rents.The woman, surnamed Fang, said goodbye to Liaoning province three years ago for a job that paid 2,400...

Caixin Media

07.31.12

Shedding Light on the Solar Crisis

CAIXIN

After Suntech Power Holdings Co. Ltd., a Wuxi-headquartered photovoltaic cell producer, went public on the New York Stock Exchange in 2005, China’s solar industry grew at an astonishing speed. More than 200 photovoltaic product manufacturers are operating in Zhejiang province...

Caixin Media

07.26.12

Mass Medal Preparedness

CAIXIN

China’s Olympic training system demands its athletes give their all—and not expect much in return.It’s a structured, planned, and government-funded system specifically designed to churn out winners.While other countries around the world build Olympic teams with professional...

Caixin Media

07.26.12

Buried Under Water

CAIXIN

Ding Zhijian, a 34-year-old editor at a children’s literature publishing company, was on his way home after meeting a colleague when a horrific rainstorm hit Beijing.Earlier that day, his wife had asked Ding not to leave the house. It was the weekend, after all, and rain had...

Caixin Media

07.19.12

Vineyards Pop Corks on Chinese Wine Investors

CAIXIN

Wine-tasting party conversations among investors in China are increasingly sounding like sour grapes.Some well-heeled wine investors have been anxiously debating whether a price bubble for investment-grade wine is getting ready to burst. Others complain that counterfeiters who...

Caixin Media

07.19.12

More than Medals for China’s Olympic Stars

CAIXIN

China’s best athletes have not only broken records but they’ve hauled in increasingly sizeable cash bonuses from central and local governments for their champion, medal-winning performances at Olympic events.Between 1984, when China re-entered the Olympics arena, and the 2008...

Caixin Media

07.11.12

Economic Ties that Bind

CAIXIN

Labor leader Wayne Swan has his finger on the pulse of the Australian economy as the nation’s deputy prime minister and treasurer, which means he’s well-equipped to explain factors defining the increasingly robust relationship between China and Australia.The period since...

Caixin Media

07.11.12

Railroaded into a Fast-Train Technology Trap

CAIXIN

The professional dreams of a team of locomotive designers and rail systems engineers sped along steel tracks through the countryside of northeastern China.The year was 2003, and high-speed track testing was under way between the cities of Shenyang and Qinhuangdao for the China...

Caixin Media

07.06.12

Land of Vanishing Lakes

CAIXIN

The last lakes in Hubei province are shrinking so fast that no one knows whether new government regulations—the latest leg of a sixteen-year-old environmental scramble—can reverse the disappearing act.The province has been losing its once-bountiful lakes for about a hundred...

Caixin Media

07.06.12

Fighting the Filth

CAIXIN

Has the division of spoils from China’s rapid economic growth become a one-sided affair? The answer is less abstract when one considers the state of the nation’s environment.Waterways are barricaded by garbage, mountains gouged with dusty pits, and the air in many major...

Caixin Media

07.06.12

Powering Down Coal-Fired Economic Expansion

CAIXIN

Slowing nationwide power demand and coal consumption, twin barometers for economic growth, suggest the Chinese economy may be sailing into the doldrums while at the same time changing its course. Electricity use in May rose a relatively mild 5.2 percent compared to the same...

Caixin Media

06.29.12

Barclay’s Diamond Offers an Optimistic Vision

CAIXIN

A calm, confident Robert Diamond discussed financial restructuring in Europe and economic options for the Chinese government during a June 14 interview—thirteen days before the British bank where he serves as CEO, Barclays Group, was fined for manipulating interbank lending...

Caixin Media

06.29.12

Shale Gas Race

CAIXIN

The shale gas revolution in the United States has led to a debate in China over shale gas development. But can the United States really achieve energy self-sufficiency? And if it can, what are the implications for China?Ever since the Nixon era, almost every American president...

Caixin Media

06.27.12

Cash for China’s Homegrown Smartphone

CAIXIN

Xiaomi Mobile Internet Co. has raised US$216 million, its CEO says, raising the total value of the upstart, homegrown Chinese smartphone maker to US$4 billion.If Lei Jun’s claim is accurate, his two-year-old company’s value is close to the market capitalization of Research In...

Caixin Media

06.20.12

China’s Food Fright

CAIXIN

There’s no denying that the gastronomic horizons of Chinese cuisines sometimes verge on the infinite. But on factors of food quality, there’s little subtlety or nuance for safety standards. In the past five years, the number of public food and drug safety scandals has hit...

Caixin Media

06.18.12

Recurring Dreams for the Rule of Law

CAIXIN

On the Beijing campus of the China University of Political Science and Law stands a dramatic monument inscribed with the words of legal expert and former university president Jiang Ping: “Rule of Law for Everyone.”Jiang’s words carry special weight, even from retirement,...

Caixin Media

06.14.12

Uproar over Aborted Fetus Photo

CAIXIN

A Shaanxi Province woman provoked an uproar with an online posting of a photo showing her with her seven-month-old fetus after what she said was a forced abortion.The gruesome photo was reposted across the Internet in China, prompting provincial officials to...

Caixin Media

06.08.12

Road Show Media Bandits Squeeze IPO Hopefuls

CAIXIN

Buying media silence is a common first step toward an initial public offering in China that siphons billions of yuan every year from companies seeking investors in Shanghai and Shenzhen. The phenomenon has been documented by the China Securities Regulatory Commission (CSRC)....

Caixin Media

05.28.12

Rail Builders Shift Interest to Overseas Mines

CAIXIN

After a three-year wait, China Railway Construction Corp. Ltd. (CRCC) recently won permission to launch a major copper mining project in Ecuador. The production agreement signed April 25 by Ecuador’s government and Corriente Resources, a Canadian company jointly controlled...

Caixin Media

05.25.12

Policeman Burned for Dealing With the Devil

CAIXIN

On March 17, the Chenzhou Public Security Bureau announced Huang Bailian had been removed as head of the police department’s drug squad. Huang offered a simple explanation for his sacking: “This is retaliation.” Three years earlier Huang, who is forty-eight years old...

Caixin Media

05.23.12

Identity Crisis Rattles Volvo’s Chinese Owner

CAIXIN

New models bearing the Chinese-owned Volvo badge shared a luxury spotlight at the Beijing International Auto Show in April with perennial stars Mercedes-Benz, BMW, and Lexus.But behind the diamond-studded presentation was confusion over the legal status of Sweden-based Volvo Car...

Caixin Media

05.18.12

Demography and Destiny

CAIXIN

China is facing a demographic reckoning that is approaching a nightmare.For thirty years, the government has been obsessed with keeping population growth down, often resorting to late-term abortions and other brutal measures. The panic now is that China is growing old before it...

Caixin Media

05.18.12

Message in a Bottle for Spirits Maker Moutai

CAIXIN

A glass of Feitian Moutai packs a wallop, which is one reason why the 106-proof baijiu is a hit among influential government officials.They also like Feitian Moutai because a single bottle, thanks to special arrangements between state agencies and distiller Kweichow Moutai Co....

Caixin Media

05.18.12

Era Ends for China’s Legendary Stock Picker

CAIXIN

Investors who closely followed the stock picks of one of China’s most successful brokers are wandering in the wilderness—and wondering what will happen next to their unemployed luminary Wang Yawei.In April, and without warning, Wang resigned from his position as a star public...

Caixin Media

05.09.12

Along the Xiang, It’s Toxic from the Tap

CAIXIN

Water flowing from the Xiang River into the faucets of Hunan Province homes has been dangerous for decades. The central government first classified the river’s water as toxic in the 1980s. But the river was being called the most polluted in China as early as 1978, years before...

Caixin Media

05.04.12

The Ruins of Yuanmingyuan

CAIXIN

On a balmy, moonlit evening in the autumn of 2010, I took my son out to Yuanmingyuan to wander among the ruins. The 150th anniversary of the destruction of “The Garden of Perfect Brightness”—often called the Old Summer Palace—was approaching and I wanted him to see what...

Caixin Media

05.04.12

Chinese Firms Try Scoring with Spanish Soccer

CAIXIN

When NBA journeyman Damon Jones signed a shoe deal with sporting goods maker Li Ning in 2006, he became the first in a long line of American basketball players to win a sponsorship from a Chinese company.Today, China’s Peak Sport Products leads other domestic companies in terms...

Caixin Media

05.02.12

Yearning for the Yuan

CAIXIN

London is forging ahead with plans for yuan-based financial services by developing an infrastructure and banking services that match its ambitions for the Chinese currency. On April 18, the city welcomed the first yuan-denominated bond issuance outside China’s sovereign...

Caixin Media

05.02.12

Garish Flowers of War

CAIXIN

The Flowers of War begins December 13, 1937, with young convent girls fleeing for their lives through a besieged Nanjing shrouded in mist. The first words heard are those of the lead girl Shujuan: “Everybody was running that day but no one could escape the thick fog.”It feels...

Caixin Media

04.25.12

Watery Grave for Yangtze River Fish

CAIXIN

(Beijing)—Fishermen along the banks of the mighty Yangtze River have long spoken of emptier nets and longer waits for a catch.On April 2, an unusual auction held in a downstream city in Jiangsu Province added weight to their bleak reports: A single, 325-...

Caixin Media

04.18.12

Unscathed by Scandals, Official Promoted

CAIXIN

(Beijing)—Although sacked once for the coverup of the 2003 SARS epidemic and a second time for blocking media coverage of the 2008 Shanxi mudslides, Meng Xuenong’s career has always bounced back.According to the website of the China Youth Political...

Caixin Media

04.06.12

China: The Worst Place To Retire

CAIXIN

China is facing a crisis over providing for the elderly as its population ages and the supply of labor diminishes. The Beijing News reported in late March that state-run homes for the elderly in the capital are overcrowded. One had 7,000 applicants waiting for a vacancy,...

Caixin Media

03.29.12

Give Wenzhou What It Needs

CAIXIN

The development of China's private economy requires financial support, especially private financial support. Wenzhou is the home of the private economy. With 99.5 percent of companies falling into the category of small and micro enterprises, one in three people in Wenzhou is a...

Caixin Media

03.19.12

Fair Trade

CAIXIN

A typically opaque investigation can begin with a tip from a Shanghai Stock Exchange official and end with a ten-year jail term for a businessman convicted of insider trading. What happens in between is a carefully guarded secret. Likewise hidden from the public eye are the...

Caixin Media

03.19.12

An Insider's Account of the Wukan Protest

CAIXIN

For months, thousands of villagers in Wukan, Guangdong Province, staged large protests over illegal land seizures, rigged elections and official corruption. The unrest started in September, and as the months wore on they attracted nationwide, then worldwide, attention. Finally,...

Caixin Media

03.09.12

Ex-Officials Battle Plan to Build Nuclear Plants

CAIXIN

Work on China’s nuclear power plants started picking up again about a year after the Fukushima disaster in Japan. But the meltdown in March 2011 was still fresh on the minds of four retired cadres in Anhui Province’s Wangjiang County. They filed a petition opposing the...

Caixin Media

01.20.12

Melodies of My Youth

CAIXIN

When I was a child, my family had an old-fashioned phonograph that had been passed down from my grandfather. It required hand-winding and used a bamboo needle, and it came with special silver tweezers for cutting the bamboo needles. On the side of the phonograph was a logo...

DISCUSSION

The Popularity of Chinese Patriotism

MARTIN BERNAL

Fundamentally China is a sellers’ market. The first half of this century, when there was a glut of books, seems to have been the exception. Since 1949 a veil has once more been drawn over the center of the mysterious east, and the situation has reverted to that of the...

Mao’s China

MARTIN BERNAL

To most Westerners China is not a part of the known world and Mao is not a figure of our time. The ignorant believe he is the leader of a host of martians whose sole occupation is plotting the destruction of civilization and the enslavement of mankind. The more sophisticated say...

Contradictions

MARTIN BERNAL

Professor Schurmann is not modest. Near the beginning of his book he writes: “translations from Chinese, Russian and Japanese are my own, and hundreds of articles had to be read in the original Chinese with precision and at the same time extensively. It was important to...