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Xi Zhongxun: Father of a Great Nation’s Leader

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As a student revolutionary, Xi Zhongxun saw that Chinaʼs communists had only one source of strength: not money, not modern arms, not foreign aid, but the support of Chinaʼs ʻplain folkʼ. For them, the maxim ʻServe the Peopleʼ was an imperative.

The communistsʼ fighting forces did just that – they served the humblest labouring people in everyday life. In the villages, they helped to harvest and thresh, they fetched water to fill big urns, they fed the pigs and chickens, they taught literacy classes, they supplied toothbrushes and other hygienic paraphernalia, they paid for anything they needed, and they were the first army in Chinese history to treat ordinary people with courtesy and care. ʻPolicy plus Serviceʼ brought about the PRC.

After coming to power, some officials forgot service, and instead began to act as masters. However, Xi Zhongxun was never one of those who forgot. He set himself against all kinds of bureaucratism and error.

The book gives moving examples. When an ageing Xi Zhongxun was party leader in Guangdong province (where he set up the game-changing first special economic zone in Shenzhen), he discovered that poor farmers who tried to slip into Hong Kong were being arrested and imprisoned by Chinese border guards. He went to the site and ordered their immediate release, saying that these were not criminals but people with problems. The way to keep people from leaving is to make life better in Guangdong, he argued.

Xi spent years in wrongful imprisonment for this devotion to principle. But at no time did he waver from his faith in a bright future for China, which he was certain would be led by an enlightened communist party. Even before he was exonerated, he continued his fight against wrong.

When I arrived in Yanʼan in 1946, it was Xi who met me at the Yellow River crossing and took me around the countryside. I saw how simple and direct he was in dealing with peasant folk, how well he understood their problems, and how they loved and trusted him. Towards me, a 25-year-old ʼnobodyʼ from America, he showed the same care and concern for every detail of my needs. I felt at home.
Xi and his loving wife Qi Xin gave birth to Chinaʼs new leader, Xi Jinping, and taught him well. Readers of this book will likely conclude that the son will follow in the footsteps of the father.

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