A happy new year to you. All the best for 2024!
Best wishes from Shanghai
New Year's Address
Xi emphasised China’s achievements in COVID-19 response, economic recovery, technological innovation, sports, culture, and international relations.
Xi stressed the need to improve citizens’ lives through better education, employment, healthcare, and societal harmony.
Xi reiterated China’s commitment to global collaborations and tackling international challenges.
Beyond these usual talking points, there are a few things worth noting.
The New Year’s address aims to promote unity, confidence, and identification with the Party-state. It does not evaluate the nation’s progress or outline future policies. Challenges are only briefly mentioned or alluded to.
In this year’s address, Xi implicitly acknowledged the economic difficulties.
In last year’s address, Xi implicitly acknowledged social tension and public frustration towards the government’s zero-COVID measures: “Ours is a big country. It is only natural for different people to have different concerns or hold different views on the same issue.”
When explaining China’s success in 2023, Xi used a discourse centred around the uniqueness of the Chinese civilisation:
China is a great country with a great civilization. Across this vast expanse of land, wisps of smoke in the deserts of the north and drizzles in the south invoke our fond memory of many millennium-old stories. The mighty Yellow River and Yangtze River never fail to inspire us...[archaeological sites and cultural treasures]...bear witness to the evolution of Chinese culture. All this stands as a testament to the time-honoured history of China and its splendid civilisation. And all this is the source from which our confidence and strength are derived.
This type of discourse has become increasingly prominent in official sources with two main consequences: it reifies national identity and suppresses alternative perspectives on Chinese history that conflict with the official narrative.
The New Year’s address, established in 1990, initially aimed to extend greetings and goodwill to foreign audiences. But over time, it began to focus more on the domestic audience.
This tradition can be traced back to a 1986 address by Zhao Ziyang. His address, celebrating the United Nations’ International Year of Peace, was intended for an international audience.
Today, the New Year’s addresses still express a desire for international peace, but the main focus is on China’s national achievements and aspirations.
Zhu Ling, who was poisoned with thallium in 1995 while attending Tsinghua University, has passed away at the age of 50.
The poisoning left her severely incapacitated, causing blindness, paralysis, and brain damage, resulting in almost thirty years of suffering for her and her family.
Despite the seriousness of the crime, no one was charged after a three-year police investigation. This case has drawn significant public attention, making it one of China's most prominent cold cases in recent memory.
Her death on December 22 stirred an outpouring of grief and prompted online discussions about justice and the complexities of the human experience.
Her story resonates with the Chinese public because it is a profound tragedy, and it reflects broader concerns.
Concerns have arisen regarding the hospital, university, and police in Zhu Ling's case. Many believe that Sun Wei, Zhu's dormmate and the sole known police suspect, was shielded by her influential family connections.
These concerns raise questions about the transparency and fairness of public institutions and highlight a general scepticism towards individuals in positions of power.
Zhu Ling's story is closely connected to the emergence of the Internet in China.