In November, Forbes dubbed Hu Jintao the world's most powerful person. One might quibble with that ranking, or the magazine's bald assertion that the Chinese president can single-handedly "divert rivers, build cities, jail dissidents and censor [the] Internet without meddling from pesky bureaucrats." But take it as a sign of the times: China has arrived on the world stage in a major way, and there's no question Hu had a lot to do with it. After eight years in office, Hu is one of the world's most experienced leaders. He sits atop a massive bureaucracy and party apparatus that is structured to collect, assess, and provide the information he requires. In superficial ways, what Hu needs to know in 2011 resembles what Barack Obama or Angela Merkel needs. But it would be a mistake to compare him to the U.S. president or the German chancellor. Better to start by constructing a map of his priorities modeled on Saul Steinberg's often imitated 1976 New Yorker magazine cover illustrating how Manhattanites view the world. What does Hu see?
PRESIDENT OF THE PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC OF CHINA
As the first decade of the 21st century draws to a close, I am pleased to affirm that it has been the most successful in the history of the People's Republic of China. Our country has displaced Japan as the second-largest economy, our people are more prosperous than ever, and China's influence has never been greater. Thanks to the wise leadership of the party and strict adherence to the strategy of reform and opening articulated by former leader Deng Xiaoping, China emerged from the global financial crisis more quickly than any other country. Our economy continues to grow at a rate of 9 to 10 percent, more than three times faster than Germany's. This growth has bolstered national pride and earned the respect of people around the world. But it has also raised expectations at home and reinforced foreign concerns about China's rise. Our successes have made it even more important to make progress on corruption, perceived injustice, and other long-standing problems. To deal with these challenges, I must have timely information and analysis of developments germane to the issues summarized below:
Photos of the PLA and its rivals.
Societal concerns and domestic tranquility. As I always tell foreign leaders who visit China, we are still a developing country. Economic growth has brought benefits to all, but gaps between rich and poor, urban and rural, coastal and interior, educated and uneducated, are growing and becoming more obvious and less acceptable as expectations rise and citizens become increasingly aware of developments via the media, the Internet, and other fast-spreading technologies. Urban residents need, and demand, better schools, public transportation, and more and cleaner water. The tensions between official residents and the "floating population" that has moved to the cities in search of jobs and better living conditions are also escalating, with potentially dangerous consequences.
Rural residents are falling further behind their urban counterparts and becoming increasingly angry about their inferior education, health care, and other services. Like city dwellers, they are increasingly intolerant of perceived injustice and corrupt behavior by officials who transfer land-use rights, ignore violations of environmental regulations, divert tax revenues to personal use, and commit other similar offenses. They are justifiably angry about our slow response to natural disasters like the mudslides in Gansu and the Sichuan earthquake, dangers to children from contaminated milk and other products, or the death of workers in illegal mines. Last year, we investigated more than 2,500 government officials and some 9,300 government workers suspected of malfeasance and infringement of people's rights, as well as more than 10,000 cases of commercial bribery involving government workers.
I need to know about any such developments in time to do something about them. As importantly, I must know immediately about any attempts to organize demonstrations, petition drives, or direct action against factory managers or officials. I need to have information that will enable us to understand the issues and determine how best to respond. We cannot simply shut our eyes to problems, as some officials did with respect to industrial pollution of drinking water in Jiangsu or the quality of school buildings in Sichuan.