In the narrative that emerged in the Post-Mao era, the Party’s legitimacy rested not only upon revolutionary credentials, but also the Party’s role as the saviors of Chinese civilization (never mind the Party’s role in the destruction of that legacy during the early years of the PRC). The Party presented itself as a bulwark against a lurking foreign menace, guardians against subversive elements looking to pull the Chinese people back out of the light. And even though Deng Xiaoping’s ideas on how to save China differed from those of Mao, the measuring stick remained China’s fall and humiliation. China would develop. It needed to catch up. It needed to modernize.
This was a narrative about redemption and regeneration.
The previous administration, Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao, may have likely felt that the story ended with them. With the Olympic Games. With the WTO. How naïve they — and we — were.
Xi’s ideas about a “New Age” clearly has him presiding over the final stage of this passion play.