context: Xi’s sounding of the tocsin is not an indication of anxiety so much as an effort to cast the present situation in definable terms–to provide a framework and foci for officials, to convey the immediacy and urgency of challenges facing the Party and government. He and his like-minded comrades want everyone on the same policy page, so that reform can proceed on the terms they have sought to outline and impose since 2012.

At a conference of provincial and ministerial-level cadres, Xi Jinping 习近平 CCP General Secretary addressed what he called ‘profound changes in the external environment and new situations and questions facing China’s reform, development and stability’. Noting that these new challenges must be deeply understood, Xi called for officials to

  • improve prevention and control capacity
  • focus on preventing and resolving major risks
  • maintain sustained and healthy economic development and social stability
  • provide a strong guarantee for comprehensively building a well-off society
  • attaining the great victory of socialism with Chinese characteristics in the new era
  • realising the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation

According to the report, Xi pushed officials to prevent and resolve major risks in

  • politics
  • ideology
  • economy
  • sci-tech
  • society
  • the external environment
  • Party-building

Xi stressed that in the face of the complicated international situation and the arduous tasks of reform, development and stability, the Party must always remain highly vigilant, and to be aware of ‘black swans’ ( improbable, unforeseeable events) as well as ‘grey rhinos’ (highly probable, high-impact yet neglected threats). Officials should take the initiative to overcome danger and turn it into opportunity.

Xi also noted that

  • the current situation in China is generally good
  • the leadership of the Party Central Committee is strong
  • the Party’s ‘four consciousness’, ‘four self-confidences’ and ‘two safeguards’ have been significantly strengthened
  • the ideological field remains positive and healthy
  • the economy has maintained a steady and progressive trend
  • all nationalities are united in morality and fighting spirit
  • the overall social situation has remained stable

At the same time, Xi pointed out, Party committees and governments at all levels should resolutely implement the overall concept of national security, and the Central Committee’s directives on maintaining and ensuring political security, including to

  • consolidate, strengthen and guide public opinion
  • accelerate establishment of a comprehensive grid governance system
  • promote rule of law
  • improve ideological and political work system, including among the younger generation

Xi conceded that while the current economic situation is generally good, the prospects for change are concerning, and that departments across levels should balance the relationship between steady growth and risk prevention.

To maintain social stability, Xi noted, officials need to solve people’s vital interests including employment, education, social security, medical and health matters, food safety, production safety, and the housing market. Cadres should constantly increase people’s sense of access, happiness and security, and safeguard legitimate rights while combating crimes ‘with both hard and fast hands’. Modernising social governance while adhering to and developing the ‘Maple Bridge Experience’ will maintain social stability at the source, Xi said.

Xi noted that comprehensive and strict Party administration removed serious hidden dangers existing there, but dangers of spiritual slackness, inadequate ability, isolation from the masses and the risk of corruption remain acute and severe.

Xi emphasised that it is the political responsibility of Party committees, governments and leading cadres at all levels to guard against and mitigate major risks—to scientifically foresee development trends, so as to prepare for ‘the rainy day’. Leading cadres should thoroughly study the basic theories of Marxism, and be good at grasping rules from complicated contradictions. Xi said that the prevention and resolution of major risks also requires a strong fighting spirit, with the tenacious will of ‘stepping down rough roads, fighting hard and starting from danger’.

Premier Li Keqiang 李克强 presided over the meeting. Politburo Standing Committee members Li Zhanshu 栗战书, Wang Yang 汪洋, Wang Huning 王沪宁, Zhao Leji 赵乐际 and Han Zheng 韩正, and various other representatives attended.