The New Year message is no long-term check, but one that must be honored in the same year that it is written.
The highlights of President Xi's New Year message were justice and good-neighborliness.
Justice is a characteristic of a civilized society, and should be felt in all areas of modern life. A responsible government should take fairness and justice as guidelines in dealing with their own problems. A government that doesn't uphold fairness and justice needn't bother existing.
Mao's revolution destroyed our sense of community, setting up an urban-rural dualism and a "them and us" structure that has split the country. The state-owned economic system has stifled competition, the communal system distorted fairness, and so we are now in the process of rebuilding justice and fairness, and are likely to run into all manner of vast and complex difficulties.
We must solve the problems left behind by Mao Zedong by building a modern market system and implementing a constitutional system of government. Such a two-pronged approach should be able to lay the foundation for social equity and justice.
In the broad daylight of democracy and the rule of law, we must deal with corruption and overturn miscarriages of justice. This would be the best place to start for now.
'We must move forward'
Back in the day, former chairman Hu Yaobang dauntlessly presided over the vindication of millions of miscarriages of justice. Not only did this not lead to social turmoil; it opened the floodgates for all the social progress we saw during the 1980s.
This is very valuable experience. We can only take one step at a time, but we must move forward. Empty talk of justice and fairness will let down the spirit of the New Year message.
2014 should be the year in which we overturn miscarriages of justice, beginning with the crackdown on the Tiananmen Square protests that happened so long—25 years—ago.
We could also start with those "gentlemen" who have called on the leadership to disclose their assets, or with the initial revelations of wicked and heinous events at Masanjia labor camp.
In international relations, President Xi spoke of mutual understanding and mutual assistance, to build a shared and beautiful home on Earth.
Here is a spirit of rationality, of reconciliation, which can blow away all the self-centered and wayward hostility of Mao Zedong, and is the direct descendant of Zhou Enlai's advocacy of the "live and let live" principle of peaceful coexistence.
Such is President Xi's exhortation to the entire foreign ministry and to all those engaged in diplomatic work.
The serious, rather than perfunctory, exercise of this policy of good-neighborliness will bring priceless friendship and trust to China. This is what we really need.
Translated by Luisetta Mudie.
Bao Tong, political aide to the late ousted premier Zhao Ziyang, is currently under house arrest at his home in Beijing.