One of President Xi Jinping’s avid admirers has launched a small London-based research centre that aims to promote Xi's ideas and acquaint foreigners with one of the world’s most powerful leaders.
Chinese-Canadian businessman Huang Yongjun, aka Edward Huang, the owner of a small publishing company, has established the Xi Jinping Thoughts Study Centre.
“Being Chinese, I strongly feel that I have the responsibility to introduce Xi Jinping’s thoughts to foreigners,” he told the South China Morning Post. “The outside world knows very little about President Xi.
“It is a great time for the world to study [Xi’s] ideas as he has been in power for just more than a year and [he] has announced reform plans.”
Although the centre only has three staff – including Huang – the businessman already has ambitious plans to expand to other countries such as India, the United States and Sweden, the latter chosen for its reputation as a hub for the intelligentsia.
“Sweden is very important for its decisive role in the Nobel Prize, so we will set up a bureau there to promote Xi’s thoughts,” Huang said.
But asked about details of the centre’s operations, Huang was vague about what they would do on a daily basis. The Xi Jinping Thoughts Study Centre is not sanctioned by the government and has not produced any papers or publications so far.
Huang said he wanted financial support from the state.
China’s propaganda department, which handles ideological campaigns, could not be reached for comment.
Last month, Huang spent more than 100,000 yuan (HK$125,600) on a “global forum” on “how Xi Jinpnig will change China and the world”. He held the event at a London hotel and invited 120 guests from various sectors in the British capital.
A 77-minute video of the forum showed  people sitting in plain chairs, listening to five speakers – Huang, an energy firm director, a lawyer, asset manager and a monk who claimed to be from the Shaolin Temple’s London bureau. Some of the experts said they had never set foot in China.
All of them praised Xi and China’s rapid development, according to the video footage.
Huang admitted he did not know these experts, who were chosen by a public relations firm he hired. He admitted the authorities were not pleased. “The authorities found it too sensitive, but I think it’s important to introduce Xi’s thoughts,” he said.
Huang said he hosted the forum simply because of his “worship” of Xi, but insisted he was not promoting a cult of personality but was just “spreading the right [word]”.
As testament to his socialist zeal, Huang said he named his daughter “Runzhi”, an alias of Mao Zedong.
“President Xi is just like Chairman Mao, they share the similar man-of-the-people style and hate corruption,” he said. “The new China cannot be founded without Chairman Mao, and the country will not be able to stand on the world stage without Xi.”
One of the speakers at the forum, Abbey King Khawaja, corporate affairs director of British Eco Power, confirmed that his company sponsored the event. “We fully support Huang with his future focus on sharing the vision of [Xi] and the ‘Chinese Dream’.”
He said he thought of Xi as “positive, creative, diplomatic and globally aware of future challenges”.
Asked if Huang’s forum seemed like propaganda, Khawaja said: “Not at all. His thoughts are vivid and compassionate for a better world.”
The Hebei government last month announced the launch of its “General Secretary Xi Jinping Spirit Series of Important Speeches Research Centre”, and stressed the need to study Xi’s speeches to better understand his philosophies.
The Communist Party often uses political slogans in propaganda for different administration’s guiding policies. For instance, former president Jiang Zemin was attributed with the “Three Represents” guiding ideology, while his successor Hu Jintao used “Scientific Development”.
Xi, who only took office over a year, has no confirmed title for his philosophies, but he is best known for the catchphrase “Chinese Dream”, the idea that ordinary people can achieve national glory if work hard.