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China’s change you can believe in?

Posted by Author on August 26, 2010

economist.com, Aug 26th 2010 | Beijing –

CHINA is enjoying its new status as the world’s second-largest economy, but the prime minister, Wen Jiabao, is refusing to relax. During a visit to a southern boomtown he declared that economic gains could yet be lost without reforms to the political system. One official newspaper called his speech one of “extraordinary importance”, but sceptics abound.

His remarks on August 20th and 21st in the city of Shenzhen have been compared by some optimists to those made by the late Deng Xiaoping during a tour of the same city in 1992. Deng’s calls for market-oriented reforms sent central-planners scurrying and unleashed the entrepreneurial energy that has helped China to grow at giddy rates since. During his trip Mr Wen laid flowers before a statue of Deng, who turned Shenzhen into a test bed for economic change exactly 30 years ago.

Mr Wen’s remarks on political reform were striking. China, he said, had to “resolve the issue of the excessive concentration of unrestrained power” and “create conditions for the people to criticise and supervise the government”. It was necessary, he said, to build a society with “fairness and justness”. Chinese leaders have spoken before about the importance of political reform (while ushering in very little), but Mr Wen’s emphasis was unusual.

This has caused a flurry of excitement in some state-controlled newspapers. Southern Daily, in Guangdong Province where Shenzhen is located, published a commentary saying a new wave of “leftist” thinking was blocking reforms in some places. It said it was time for a “breakthrough”, and called for “a new generation of reformers to stand up”. Yangzi Daily added that social stability in China would be unsustainable without political change. Global Times quoted a Communist Party academic as saying that the “slow pace” of political reform in China was the “root cause of growing social conflict”.

Heady stuff, but Mr Wen is no Deng. Most Beijing newspapers have reported Mr Wen’s remarks without comment. One enthusiastic group of 15 or so intellectuals gathered outside Beijing to discuss their import. The arrival of two suspected security agents and an unexpected power cut at the venue hastened proceedings to a close. …… (more details from The Economist)

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