Not for the first time, China’s number-three leader Wu Bangguo declares ‘Western’ political reforms incompatible with, in essence, national survival. That means no representative multi-party democracy, no separation of powers between legislative and executive branches, and no independent judiciary. In other words, the continuation of one-party rule at all costs. Does repeating the mantra make the idea any more convincing?
Since Deng Xiaoping introduced shreds of economic common sense in the late 1970s, China has risen from the depths of poverty up to the same level as El Salvador (around US$7,000 per-capita GDP at PPP; we don’t hear much about El Salvador because it doesn’t have 1.3 billion people). At the same time, Chinese leaders have become steadily less at ease and confident about reform. Deng was happy to let flies in the open window when he allowed foreign capitalists to invest in China, but his heirs today leap out of their skins with fright at a simple online mention of the word ‘jasmine’.
Each generation of Chinese leaders is getting more bland, boring and risk-averse. Premier Wen Jiabao does a slick ‘kindly uncle’ act, but how insipid he is compared with his magnificently undiplomatic predecessor Zhu Rongji. Meanwhile, ‘contradictions’ pile up, almost too numerous and tediously familiar to list: corruption, an expanding wealth gap, corruption, injustice, corruption, environmental damage, corruption… Actually it’s all corruption. You have to wonder how much (or how little) of the state, beneath the shiny exterior of the big cities, is not rotting. Ramping up headline GDP growth by splurging on railway expansion projects headed by a crook who pockets the billions – for lack of any other policy ideas – is putrefaction. Yet the willingness to acknowledge, let alone tackle, the contradictions is waning. Coming next year is President Xi Jinping, son of a revolutionary veteran and husband of a much-loved singer. If he announced a key policy platform, it would be to take an even larger broom and sweep even more under an even bigger carpet.
Another contradiction is that it is OK in some quarters and circumstances to admit that political reform of some sort is unavoidable. Some voices at the recent National People’s Congress and Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference snooze-a-thons called for a more systematic petitioning system to make it easier and safer for ripped-off and assaulted provincial residents to snitch on the bullies and thugs running their towns. The search for reform-free reform continues: we must find a way to stamp out abuses of power without allowing the free press and judiciary that are most likely to stamp out abuses of power.
A year or two ago, Shenzhen announced an experiment in separation of powers. In practice it meant replacing municipal administrative silos, in which each department formulated its own policy, implemented it, and checked itself to see it had done it properly, with horizontal cross-departmental policymaking and supervision functions. The idea was to stop the trading of graft-yielding posts in the city government, which presumably was why little came of it.
How can a corrupt system uncorrupt itself? We’re working on it, just as soon as we can (to quote today’s South China Morning Post) find ways to guard against different opinions. Ils ne passeront pas!
Hemlock seems surprised that the gang running the show in the PRC is reluctant to surrender power – why? And here’s another surprise: Very few people in China – very few – desire any change to the status quo. They just want their chance at the trough.
Je me faire foutre!
“Je suis un rockstar” is about the only bit of Frogini I understand. Please stick to English.
Combien la fillette ?
“They just want their chance at the trough.”
The same could be said for a lot of the impetus which has driven democratic reforms in other parts of the world – the push for rule of law, participation in governance, less corruption, transparency etc has been driven more by greed and self interest than altruism. I wouldn’t say that means it will play out the same in China, but I think the argument that the Chinese just want wealth, not rights, treats the two as to independent.
Also, I wonder just how many people who run the wealth, not right argument have actually spoken to Chinese people outside the narrow populations of the PRC big business and political communities.
I wonder when the PRC will give up on that “Western” political reform known as Communism.
The trough part is true enough, but when corruption extends to foodstuffs, as it has with milk powder, and as it will with construction etc, watch out, it will be interesting. Look at the ME, the standard of living isnt that huge an issue for places such as Saudi Arabia, yet protestors have been fired upon. Sooner or later, if things are rotten, other things will begin to matter more.
And I cannot see how the CCP is going to allow one city in China from 2017 to become “democratic”. This nasty political system which, doesn’t allow the continuation the CCP’s divine right to rule, could spread to other cities in China and what happens then? Wu Bangguo knows.
Those who can, DO. Those who can’t, TALK. Perhaps all this endless talk (or drivel) in certain quarters, simply proves the truth of: “Power grows out of the barrel of a gun” (not from loud-mouths…)
The trick is to talk loudly enough to make some other chump pick up the gun. An even better trick is trying to grab the reigns from the guy with the gun when the smoke clears. Doesn’t usually work, unfortunately.