No waiting, no watching, no slacking.
不等待，不观望，不懈怠。Xi Jinping’s “advice” to cadre, officials, scientists, engineers, and business leaders attending the inaugural Digital China Summit on April 22, 2018. His “advice” is displayed prominently on the big board at the event.
When Xi Jinping’s Digital China concept was elevated to a national strategy in 2017, Communist Party cadre and government officials were educated on three points: (1) Only a “statesman and strategist” with the “foresight, forward thinking, and long-term planning” of an individual like Xi Jinping could have developed a plan so “visionary;” (2) His most remarkable achievement as a master theoretician was the development of a new Marxist theorem “combining” informatization and modernization as a predictive path for China to “win the future,” and (3) It was only with “guts and courage” that then Governor Xi Jinping was able to drive informatization in Fujian province, and no less is expected now from all cadre and officials to drive Digital China. “No waiting, no watching, no slacking.”
These points were just part of a lengthy public education and domestic propaganda campaign that began in late 2017. Connecting the Digital China concept directly to Xi Jinping empowers it. But it is still unclear to me why such a lengthy, high-profile propaganda campaign was necessary to make that point. Most campaigns of this nature are shorter and less intense. Although Digital China was not elevated to a national strategy until Xi’s second term as general secretary which at least suggests some resistance to the idea, Xi had been personally elevating the concept of Digital China since his first public mention of it in his keynote address to the Second World Internet Conference at Wuzhen in December 2015, over two years earlier. So was there internal resistance to Xi’s vision? We just don’t know. I can say at this point that I do not see the same evidence of wide leadership unanimity that was apparent in the decision to elevate Cyber Great Power to a national strategy several years earlier. It’s an important point that touches on the foundation of Digital China politically. If you are interested in China’s digital intent and future, this is key.
For now, let’s take our first look at how this all appeared as a domestic propaganda narrative inside China back in 2018.
“Digital Fujian is the Ideological Origin of Digital China” was published on Page One of Guangming Daily on April 23, 2018, one of the one party’s top-level theoretical journals. According to the paper itself, “Founded on June 16, 1949, Guangming Daily is an ideological and cultural newspaper supervised by the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China with intellectuals as its main readers.” The article itself was attributed to “a commentator from this newspaper” (本报评论员), marking it as semi-authoritative and representing the views of the party’s most senior leadership.
In short, if you are a member of the Communist Party, and a page one editorial like this appears, you will be reading it as a group shortly in your local party committee. It is now policy. If there was resistance, it is gone, or at least it’s been silenced.
The date of the article’s publication is also important. It marks the start of a major domestic propaganda campaign to educate party cadre and PRC citizens on Digital China, which had been elevated just months earlier as a national strategy following the 19th Party Congress in October 2017. The day before this article was published, the Cyberspace Administration of China published its first Digital China Construction Development Report. The report, in turn, was designed to mark Xi Jinping’s authoritative statement on Digital China in a congratulatory letter to the inaugural Digital China Summit in Fuzhou, Fujian the same day. The reason Fujian province was chosen as the location for the summit is obvious.
For background, Xi’s message was designed to clarify the relationship between Cyber Great Power and Digital China, and begin to explain the concept of Smart Society. Cyber Great Power was already well understood by party cadre, now over four years old, and Xi used his “important thought” on Cyber Great Power Strategy to introduce the cascading relationship between the three strategic plans for the first time in public since his political report to the 19th Party Congress.
Also note the heavy emphasis in the article on Governor Xi Jinping’s “guts and courage” to take charge and drive informatization personally in his province. No doubt local leaders understood the message in the article and the expectations Xi had for each of them. In short, “No waiting, no watching, no slacking.”
A lightly edited DeepL full translation of the article follows. I’ve highlighted those portions that still stand in the party narrative on Digital China. You will also note repeating language from speeches given by Xi Jinping prior to the first Digital China Summit, most notably, “without informatization there is no modernization.” This is excerpted from his speech to the first meeting of the new Central Leading Group for Cybersecurity and Informatization in February 2014. The theoretical significance of the phrase would not be clearly captured by party commentators until years later as Digital China’s underlying Marxist theorem evolved and solidified.
Digital Fujian is the Ideological Origin of Digital China
Writer: Commentator from this Newspaper; Guangming Daily; April 23, 2018; Page One
作者：本报评论员《光明日报》（ 2018年04月23日 01版）
The first Digital China Construction Summit was grandly opened in Fuzhou on 22nd. General Secretary Xi Jinping sent a congratulatory letter stressing the importance of cultivating new momentum with information technology, using new momentum to promote new development, and creating new brilliance with new development. Eighteen years ago, Comrade Xi Jinping, then governor of Fujian Province, with the foresight, forward thinking, and long-term planning of a statesman and strategist, deployed Build Digital Fujian, which started the process of large-scale promotion of informatized construction in Fujian, and thus kicked off the prelude to Build Digital China.
At the Digital China Construction Summit, a large amount of data and examples show the vibrant practice of Digital Fujian. For 18 years, Fujian has experienced continuous innovation and development and continuous improvement in application levels. This has covered all aspects of public administrative services, production and life of the masses, and urban management, changing the way people work and live. After 18 years of exploration and practice, Digital Fujian is fruitful, with outstanding achievements in e-government, digital economy, social experiences, and smart society.
Digital Fujian is the ideological source and practical starting point of General Secretary Xi Jinping on the construction Digital China. In 2000, he pointed out that Build Digital Fujian was of great significance, and that to implement the strategy of developing the province through science and education, it was necessary to seize the high points of science and technology, and Build Digital Fujian is one of the most important high grounds in science and technology. When he was the governor of the province, in his analysis of the provincial situation, he pointed out that the shortcomings of Fujian’s informatization was rural areas, and to get rid of poverty we must adopt “communications first”. In 2001, Fujian begin the construction of telephones in villages and was the first province in China to offer universal telecommunication services after the government divestiture of telecommunications enterprises in 2000.
From Digital Fujian to Digital China, General Secretary Xi Jinping’s strategic thinking on building an informatized China has been consistent, in one continuous line, and highly connected to thought and theory. Since the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, the Party Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping has executed a visionary strategic plan to build a Cyber Great Power and Digital China, driving historic change and gaining an historic achievement in the promotion of our country’s informatized development. In the past five years, the top-level design of informatization has been continuously improved, and the ” Outline of the National Informatization Development Strategy” and “13th Five-Year Plan for National Informatization” have been issued successively. The overall coordination of national e-government work has become more powerful, and core technology innovations and breakthroughs have continued to accelerate. With the deep integration of the digital economy and the real economy, the emergence of new technologies, new formats, and new models, and the comprehensive advancement of “Internet Plus”, the people have a greater sense of gain in sharing the fruits of informatized development. In recent years, General Secretary Xi Jinping has repeatedly emphasized the importance of Build Digital China and outlined the construction of a Digital China. At the recently held National Cybersecurity and Informatization Work Conference, General Secretary Xi Jinping stood at the height of human historical development and the overall situation of the party and country and scientifically analyzed the opportunities and challenges brought to us by the informatization revolution. For the present and future period, an important strategic plan has been made for cybersecurity and informatization work.
After 18 years of exploration, Digital Fujian has accumulated many valuable and successful experiences. Looking back at the development of Fujian’s 18-year informatized construction and development, adhering to a top-level design for guidance and overall planning is the red line for Digital Fujian construction from beginning to end.
When digitalization was still an unfamiliar concept to most people, Comrade Xi Jinping, then governor of Fujian Province, made a comprehensive plan with a strategic vision, and scientifically laid out the road to informatized development, clearly proposing “digitization, networkization, visualization, and intelligentization”construction goals. At the beginning of 2001, under his personal planning, Fujian Province conducted forward-looking planning and deployment such as integrated construction of a province-wide government services information network, the integration and shared use of information resources, and actively explored the coordinated and shared construction of e-government projects.
Standing here today, there is a general societal consensus on the importance of emerging technologies such as big data, cloud computing, and artificial intelligence to the country and to regional development and they have already become a competitive hotspot in various regions. Going back 18 years, building an interconnected and shared Digital Fujian required guts and great courage. Facing fragmented management and dispersed technical information, Digital Fujian proposed to digitize and computer process the information of all departments, industries, and fields across the province. To the greatest extent, various sources of information would be integrated and utilized to provide various information services quickly, completely and conveniently, and realize the informatization of the national economy and society. For this reason, Comrade Xi Jinping, who was the governor at the time, personally took charge of the leading small group on Digital Fujian construction The group achieved solid, on-time, and steady step-by-step progress so that the level of information technology in Fujian Province has been maintained at the forefront of the country. The construction of Digital Fujian has achieved remarkable results. The comprehensive informatization index, the Internet penetration rate, the level of integration in informatization and modernization, and the overall size of the digital economy all rank among the top in the country.
Without informatization, there is no modernization. In today’s world, innovation in information technology changes with each passing day. Digitization, networkization, intelligentization are developing in depth, and they are playing an increasingly important role in promoting economic and social development, promoting the modernization of the national governance system and governance capabilities, and meeting the people’s growing needs for a better life . All countries in the world regard the promotion of economic digitalization as an important driving force for innovation and development. In the magnificent and complex context of the times, the Party Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping at its core has accurately grasped the general trend of the times, and regards the implementation of Cyber Great Power and Build Digital China as a major strategies for national development. This has great significance and a far-reaching influence.
Over the past 18 years, General Secretary Xi Jinping’s practice in Fujian has made a good start, set a good tone, and arranged a good layout for Fujian’s informatized construction. This successful experience not only provided the “shoulders of a giant” for Fujian’s development, but also provided a strategic plan to construct Digital China as well as strategic thinking for scientific planning. The plentiful fruits of Digital Fujian have provided a model for “Digital China.” The 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China made a strategic plan for constructing a Cyber Great Power, a Digital China, and a Smart Society. We must seize this historic opportunity, ride the waves, and use this summit as a new sail for informatized construction in the new era. We should use informatization to cultivate new momentum, use new momentum to promote new development, and insert the soaring wings of informatization for the Great Rejuvenation of the Chinese Nation.