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Xi Focus: A look at Xi’s governance thought through catchphrases at « two sessions »

« Governing a big country is as delicate as frying a small fish. » This is an adage President Xi Jinping cited back in 2013 when asked about governing a country like China.

Borrowing ancient Chinese wisdom, Xi, also general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee and chairman of the Central Military Commission, highlighted an aspect of his thought on governing a country with over 1.4 billion people — « never slackening our efforts or being negligent in the slightest, and always devoting ourselves to work and the public interest. »

Since assuming the Party’s top job in November 2012, Xi has used a slew of adages, idioms and proverbs to expound on national plans and policies. Some of these have been featured in his witty remarks when he joined deliberations with other lawmakers on issues of national importance or visited national political advisors during the annual « two sessions. »


In 2014, when taking part in a deliberation with National People’s Congress (NPC) deputies of the Guangdong delegation, Xi used the expression « clearing the cage for new birds » to stress the importance of deepening reform in all areas and promoting structural adjustments.

Xi stressed efforts to advance industrial upgrading, giving full play to the role of innovation in propelling progress, and embracing green development.

Three years later at the 2017 « two sessions, » Xi mentioned the phrase again during a deliberation with lawmakers from Liaoning Province, stating the necessity of replacing old industries with new ones amid the country’s economic transformation drive.


In 2013, when talking about reform at a deliberation of the Shanghai delegation of the NPC, Xi said that reform must be continued with the force and courage of « cracking hard nuts » and « wading through dangerous rapids. »

Xi has repeatedly mentioned the term « hard nuts, » which is often used as a metaphor for arduous tasks, to describe the onerousness and importance of deepening reform across the board, stressing the need to demolish the barriers of old notions and the confinement of interest groups.

Xi has led the cause of comprehensively deepening reform, which includes reforming Party and state institutions. Part of a new reform plan for Party and state institutions will be deliberated at this year’s « two sessions. »


Building eco-civilization is vital to China’s sustainable development. Xi has on multiple occasions compared the importance of environmental protection to the protection of one’s eyes and life.

In 2015, while participating in a deliberation with deputies of the Jiangxi delegation at the « two sessions, » Xi said the environment is crucial for the well-being of the public.

« We should protect the eco-environment as we protect our eyes, and cherish it as we cherish our own lives, » said Xi.

In 2016, while participating in a deliberation with lawmakers from Qinghai Province, he again used the metaphors to stress the need to prioritize and advance ecological protection and establish green development practices and lifestyles.

The focus of green development is to address the issue of harmony between humanity and nature, Xi once said.


China boasts 56 ethnic groups, and some regions such as Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region and Tibet Autonomous Region are home to people with different ethnic backgrounds.

In 2017, while attending a deliberation with the Xinjiang delegation, Xi told the lawmakers that « we should take care of ethnic unity as taking care of our eyes, cherish ethnic unity like cherishing our lives, and remain closely united like the seeds of a pomegranate that stick together. »

Over the past decade, Xi has repeatedly cited the metaphor, calling for efforts in fostering a strong sense of community for the Chinese nation.


During a deliberation with lawmakers from the Shanghai delegation in 2014, Xi emphasized the importance of strict discipline enforcement and warned those who may think that discipline is merely a scarecrow used for intimidation.

Officials at all levels should hold in veneration the Party’s disciplinary code and rules, Xi said, calling for improvements to supervisory measures as well as rewards and punishment.

Through this metaphor, Xi underlined that discipline should serve as « a high-voltage line » that nobody dares to touch.

Since the 18th CPC National Congress in 2012, the Party, led by Xi, has shown unprecedented courage and resolve in improving Party conduct, upholding integrity and combating corruption, and the problem of lax and weak governance over Party organizations has been addressed at the fundamental level.


In 2019, when visiting members of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference in the literary, art and social science circles, Xi emphasized that « the people are like the water from the fountainhead for literary and artistic creations, and only through a people-centered approach can we draw inexhaustible inspiration. »

The idiom by Zhu Xi, a renowned Chinese philosopher in the 12th century, is often used to emphasize the fundamental driving force behind development and progress.

Paying great attention to cultural progress, Xi has repeatedly called for efforts to meet people’s ever-growing intellectual and cultural needs.

At this year’s « two sessions, » what Xi will say at this important political gathering will for sure be closely watched at home and abroad, and will further convey his governance thought to an even broader audience.



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