Xi Jinping and Books

In June 2010, Xi Jinping 习近平 visited Canberra and presented a gift of more than 1,000 books to the recently established Australian Centre on China in the World at The Australian National University. The books included in the gift reflected many of the Centre’s nascent interests (the Director and associates provided a wish-list at the request of the Chinese authorities prior to the visit) and included works on Chinese thought, history (in particular Qing history), literature, society, politics, economics and trade and the environment. The hand-over event was marked with a Xinhua report and press release from the Chinese Embassy in Canberra (see also Introducing CIW). The new CIW building, to be completed in December 2013 will include a library that, among other collections, will house the Xi Jinping gift.

When Xi visited Canberra, it was already known that he would be the next General Secretary of the Communist Party, and its next President, although this was yet to be formally announced. At the Eighteenth Congress of the Chinese Communist Party held in Beijing in November 2012 Xi’s rise to the top of the party hierarchy was confirmed.

In December 2012, the news portal Sohu.com published an encomium for Xi, including the page reproduced in the screenshot above. It is titled ‘Xi Jinping and Culture: Making Literary Allusions on Exactly the Right Occasions’ (习近平与文学:用典总在恰当时). The web page contains links to various puff pieces that show Xi Jinping as a very well-read man, versed in the Chinese classics and with a refined cultural sensibility.

The image chosen to illustrate the literary cultivation of Xi Jinping shows the Chinese leader looking at a book that was part of his gift to the Australian Centre on China in the World, standing together with Dr Richard Rigby, CIW Associate Director and Executive Director of the ANU China Institute, and the then ANU Vice-Chancellor Professor Ian Chubb. The accompanying text does not mention anything about the occasion on which the photograph was taken.

Xi is noted for his interest in literature and history. Among other things he gave a much-quoted speech on on reading on 13 May 2009 (《爱读书读好书善读书》) and another on the need for cadres to study history on 5 September 2011 (《领导干部要读点历史》).

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