Xi first used the ‘Four Comprehensives’ 四个全面战略布局 in mid-December 2014. The term became an official slogan two months later. It stands for: comprehensively building a ‘moderately prosperous 小康 society, deepening reform, governing the nation in accordance with law, and strictly governing the CCP’. The first three tasks are continuations of post-Maoist national goals promoted by previous administrations. The fourth is Xi’s defining initiative.
Party slogans appear to be fixed, eternal formulations even though they are, in fact, improvisational and contingent in nature. Throughout the first eleven months of 2014, Xi had spoken only of ‘Three Comprehensives’ (the first three). As Chris Buckley pointed out in a New York Times article of 1 March 2015, it was only in November 2014 that Xi and his advisers ‘decided that leaving out fighting corruption might send the wrong message’,9 hence the addition of a ‘fourth comprehensive’ in his speeches in mid-December 2014. Party propagandists leapt to the task of providing justification for the sudden change. Buckley quotes one official commentator as praising the ‘profound implications’ of this ‘even more complete and even more mature overall framework for governance and wise rule’.