Tea Leaf Nation

We Read Xi Jinping’s Book So You Don’t Have To

Want to woo Chinese officials but don’t have the time? Take this quiz on the president's book, then toe the Party line in style.

CHINA-APEC-SUMMIT
A staff member arranges books about Chinese President Xi Jinping, in multiple languages, in the media center for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Beijing on November 5, 2014. Leaders of more than half the world's economy gather in Beijing over the next week for the annual APEC forum, with China and the US pushing rival trade agreements as a week-long series of international summits gets under way. AFP PHOTO/Greg BAKER (Photo credit should read GREG BAKER/AFP/Getty Images)

It might be unreadable, but it’s the tome everyone cozying up to China should probably claim to have perused. The book, released in September 2014 to a huge state media fanfare that has continued through February, is The Governance of China, a collection of 79 speeches and directives that Chinese President Xi Jinping has delivered since Nov. 2012, when he assumed his current position. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg raised eyebrows in December 2014 when he displayed a copy of the book on his desk to visiting Chinese Internet czar Lu Wei. Lu was visiting the social network’s California offices; Facebook is blocked in China, although the company surely hopes Chinese authorities will revisit that decision. Zuckerberg allegedly told a Chinese news outlet that he distributed the book to Facebook employees because he wants them to “understand socialism with Chinese characteristics.”

Even if Zuckerberg did foist a copy on his employees, that doesn’t mean any of them read it. The book is a mix of stilted Communist Party argot, pleasant-sounding generalizations, and “Father Knows Best”-style advice to the world; and authenticity isn’t its strength. Under Xi’s leadership, China has witnessed sweeping crackdowns on dissent and the steady erosion of press freedom – yet The Governance of China casts him as a wise and innovative reformer.

Zuckerberg seems to have charmed Lu. But for other aspiring China hands who can’t sit through the volume’s 515 pages, the below quiz should equip them with enough talking points to muddle their way through an awkward conversation about it.

1. According to Xi, what is the “Arab Dream”?

A. The national rejuvenation of Arab nations after centuries of Western oppression.
B. When a Jordanian businessman named Muhammad opens a Middle Eastern restaurant in China, marries a Chinese girl, and decides to stay in China for good.
C. A kind of candy similar to Turkish delight.
D. Sky-high oil prices.

2. Other than China, what country does Xi mention most in his book, by far?

A. India
B. The United States
C. Russia
D. North Korea

3. Like any Communist Party leader worth his snuff, Xi is a master of vague bureaucratese. Which of the following non-committal platitudes might be considered the book’s finest?

A. “Establish and promote the conduct of the ‘three stricts and the three earnests.’”
B. “We must start from reality, identify the main pressing problems, and concentrate on those problems which are most pressing or most severe.”
C. “Under the guidance of Marxist and socialist ethics, we should decide to make the past serve the present and put forth new ideas on the basis of eliminating the false and retaining the true for the creative transformation of traditional Chinese ethics.”
D. “Every coin has two sides. We must see both the advantages and disadvantages in the international and domestic situations, make full preparations for adversity, and strive to get the best possible results.”

4. Xi mentions 20th century wartime Japan ____ times; he mentions the democratic success, economic might, and technological prowess of modern Japan ____ times.

A. 3; 3
B. 4; 0
C. 0; 4
D. 97; 2

5. According to The Governance of China, what does “Al Salam aleikum”[sic] mean?

A. “Hello.”
B. “God is great.”
C. “China does not seek world hegemony.”
D. “I wish I had better translators and copy editors in my employ.”

6. As of February 5, 2015, the Amazon sales ranking of the book’s paperback edition was:

A. #17
B. #904
C. #38,591
D. #231,279

7. How many times has Chinese state-run media used the English language headline “Xi’s book on governance captivates [country] readers,” such as “Xi’s book on governance captivates Cambodian readers”?

A. 2 times
B. 3 times
C. 4 times
D. Zero times. Chinese state-run media is dedicated to hard-nosed coverage of their nation’s president.

8. On Douban, China’s most popular book-rating website, what percentage of the 692 users who reviewed the book gave it only one star out of five?

A. 0 percent
B. 35 percent
C. 70 percent
D. 95 percent

(Answer Key: 1:B. 2:C. 3: Pick ‘em. 4:B. 5:A. 6:D. 7:A. 8:C.)

AFP/Getty Images

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