Photo by nznationalparty.
Edward Wong and Jonathan Ansfield write in the New York Times that many in the Communist Party are urging Xi Jinping to pursue a program of political liberalization when he takes up the mantle of the Chinese presidency next month. However, it is important to note, as Bill Bishop does in Deal Book, that “Hu Jintao was thought to be a reformer too”.
[A] number of prominent people orbiting Mr. Xi are urging the party to adopt more liberal policies to regain the legitimacy it enjoyed when it was a revolutionary force.
The harsh expulsion last month of Bo Xilai, who tried to woo traditionalists and Maoists before he fell into disgrace, has also encouraged liberals to call for party leaders to adopt systemic changes. Hu Shuli, an influential Chinese journalist acquainted with Mr. Xi, published an editorial this month in her magazine, Caixin, under the headline “Bo Xilai as a Catalyst for Political Reform.”
One political theorist said Mr. Xi, with the backing of Jiang Zemin, the former party chief, had overseen a team researching the Singapore model of governing that allows more liberal economic policies and political voices under one-party rule. Wu Si, the editor of a journal backed by liberal party elders, said that he has heard encouraging reports that “practical work on political system reform” could emerge after the transition.
Western analysts and Chinese liberals have been looking for a “Chinese Gorbachev” since, well… Gorbachev. Hu Jintao was once written about in the same excited tones as Xi is now being lauded, but “many analysts and political insiders are now calling the years under him and Wen Jiabao, the prime minister, a ‘lost decade,’.” An anonymous party official called Hu “the worst leader China has had since 1949.”
One sign that Xi’s government will not pursue any particularly radical reform policy, or at least, not until Hu’s influence and grasp on power has waned considerably, is Hu’s alleged success in keeping Wang Yang off the next Politburo Standing Committee. Wang, Guangdong Party Chief, “is viewed by many in the West as a beacon of political reform due to his relative tolerance of free speech and grassroots civil rights.”
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