Shocking. CCP says political liberalization a long way off

Who would have thought it? Same old, same old. However, this time there are new ingredients in the broth, namely a rapidly growing middle class and a wave of support among intellectuals for reform and even the “D” word.

The Communist Party cautioned China’s increasingly impatient reformers and intellectuals Tuesday that political liberalization and democracy are still a long way off despite the rapid pace of economic change during the past two decades.

The warning, in an article attributed to Premier Wen Jiabao in the official People’s Daily, constituted the party’s first-known response to a bubbling up of political debate as China prepares for an annual session of its legislature and an important Communist Party congress — held every five years — that is scheduled for this fall.

Most of the debate has remained behind closed doors, in keeping with the party’s tradition of secrecy. But two recent articles by prominent establishment figures brought out into the open suggestions to President Hu Jintao’s government that moving faster on political reforms would help smoothe the transformation to a market economy.

One, by Zhou Ruijun, a former People’s Daily editor known for reformist views, said greater democratic opening is necessary to defuse tensions over a growing gap between rich and poor, which he warned could lead to instability. Another, by former Renmin University vice president Xie Tao, suggested that China should move speedily toward a Scandinavian-like social-welfare democracy.

Wen, who recently was reported to be in charge of preparing a leadership platform for the party congress, reached into familiar Marxist vocabularly to build an argument that China is not yet ready for such democracy, even though it remains a distant goal for the “socialism with Chinese characteristics” that the party hopes to build.

I know, I know, China’s not ready and they need a tough, no-nonsense leader to be “the Decider” and the people are too uneducated. Still, the demand for reform is being accelerated every day by China’s progress. Could there come a time when these inherently different philosophies – demand for representation and personal freedoms vs. the authoritarian quasi-police state – collide (or perhaps I should say collide again)? I don’t see it happening anytime soon – not when so many people here are having such a good time. But I do see the two forces grinding away at one another like tectonic plates, and ultimately we will witness a major shift, precipitated by an unforseen event like

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Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China's sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.

The Discussion: 14 Comments

well, no one got run over this time at least.

February 28, 2007 @ 11:48 am | Comment

Strangest thing – I have tried to open the jpeg I linked to toward the end of this post and it won’t open. I tried it on three separate machines in two different parts of Beijing. Nada. Internet elves?

February 28, 2007 @ 1:05 pm | Comment

“Could there come a time when these inherently different philosophies – demand for representation and personal freedoms vs. the authoritarian quasi-police state – collide (or perhaps I should say collide again)?”

Maybe.

Here’s a related question you could investigate for your next posting. How has Singapore has avoided the collision so far?

February 28, 2007 @ 1:25 pm | Comment

CCT,

How dare you compare Singapore to China! It has election and it’s a democratic state and people have freedom there!!! Sorry, can’t help. Robotic response. ;)

February 28, 2007 @ 3:02 pm | Comment

I personally enjoyed his call for ’100 years of socialism’.

It gives me great hope, as you only need to be here in the motherland for about 20 seconds to realize that the Chinese have as much interest in socialism as they do in drinking warm English beer.

We bloggers need to keep up our criticism – it may feel like moving a sand dune with a spoon, but as the most over quoted saying of Chinese philosophy suggests, every journey begins with a single step.

February 28, 2007 @ 4:44 pm | Comment

CCT, probably because Singapore does have more freedoms than China. The ruling party is popular because it keeps fresh faces coming forward at election time. It doesn’t matter so much whether you do vote for a new government, it’s that you have the opportunity if you want to. Currently Singaporeans could vote for the Opposition if they wanted to – just at the moment they generally prefer the people already in charge.

It is also a very small “country”, so it is much easier to control, whereas China is so large it’s very easy for opposition to crop up around the place.

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Richard, this is just the same rubbish trotted out. “China isn’t ready.” We’ve heard it all before. All I can say is, “the lady doth protest too much, methinks.”

February 28, 2007 @ 7:00 pm | Comment

Raj, you’re preaching to the choir. CCT has no leg to stand on here.

February 28, 2007 @ 9:54 pm | Comment

>>those who know enough to understand they don’t know anything

There is a difference between showing a certain amount of humility and using humility as an excuse to support the status quo. It is fine if you support the status quo, but dressing it up as “humility” doesn’t really fool anyone.

>>There are two types of people when it comes to China:

Are you sure there are only two?

>>I, personally, don’t know anything.

Forgive me if I find this completely disingenuous on your part. You just spent the paragraph before this one (not to mention scores of other comments on this blog) giving all kinds of opinions regarding the future of China and what China should do or will do. By your own definition that must qualify you for the “those who know too little and believe they know everything” category, no?

March 1, 2007 @ 1:53 am | Comment

Raj here have a very wrong opinion of Singapore. If he has ever been there he will notice 3 things that are glaringly misplaced in the most developed ‘democratic’ nation in SE Asia.

Press freedom is ranked atrociously.
Draconian laws like the ISA.
Best of all, the Lee Dynasty.

Yes, there is an opposition party, but they are never given any platform. TV, newspapers, and radio stations are owned and run by the Government.

Are the people happy? I would say so. Are the people politically uneducated? Maybe. But one thing’s for sure Singapore works.

Could the system be transposed to China? Nobody knows. What are the socio-economics at play here, and will it be the same in China?

March 1, 2007 @ 5:21 am | Comment

they should plan towards some kind of primarily meritocratic system with some “democracy” secondary, taiwan’s political system is a little better but it’s still a joke.

i think the bush administration has really shaken people’s faith in a two-party system. get enough idiots who hate gays and you win the election.

March 1, 2007 @ 5:46 am | Comment

@88,

You caught me. I missed out a few words.

“There are two types of people when it comes to THE FUTURE OF, AND THE SOLUTION FOR China: those who know enough to understand they don’t know anything, and those who know too little and believe they know everything.”

Plug that back into context and reread.

I’m not humble when it comes to modern China. I don’t know if its possible to “know” China, but I am arrogant enough to believe that I comprehend it far better than many.

But I am humble when it comes to the future of China, and the policies that will grant us the best solutions possible. At risk of repeating myself: China is a tremendous social experiment with challenges unlike those of any other country in recent times.

I have little idea what China will look like in 10-20 years, and I have even less idea of what I think it *should* look like. I know that I would like seeing Singapore’s model extended to China, but I’m humble enough to admit that I know not whether it’s possible or ideal.

March 1, 2007 @ 6:40 am | Comment

OK, so if i’m to take what you say as true, CCT, you claim to comprehend the situation in china far better than most, yet the best arguement you can put foreward is hurling turds at individuals who never claimed to be all-knowing, whilst seriously putting foreward the arguement that a nation of 1.2 billion can be compared with a city-state the size of Doncaster. That seems to be a bit of an over-simplification, but perhaps this is the way your mind works.

*China is a tremendous social experiment with challenges unlike those of any other country in recent times.*

I love your use of scientific terminology to imply that China is ‘an experiment’. That terminology connotes that, as in a chemistry test, we shouldn’t critisize until the experiment is done. I got news for you buddy – critisism is good for keeping people on their toes; a free press ensures (in theory) accountability.

And btw – this site has been about since March 2002, and has been updated daily (for the most part) with enlightening and insightful posts and discussions by Richard and the like. Until you’re willing to put in such an effort, fuck off.

March 1, 2007 @ 5:35 pm | Comment

@Balian2,

“Fuck off?” I got news for you buddy, criticism is good for you, it keeps you on your toes. You and richard should be thanking me for being here; I’m your free press.

Good informed criticism is always good. Juvenile criticism is distracting, misleading, and not good.

CCT. Richard, Balian and the rest of us already have acess to the free media, thanks. It’s called via something called the internet (and radio, TV, newspapers, etc). Raj

March 2, 2007 @ 1:02 am | Comment

Good informed criticism is always good. Juvenile criticism is distracting, misleading, and not good.
CCT

And I’d put sarcasm, like noted anti-imperialist Samuel Clemens, in the “good informed criticism” and false binaries, like “There are only two types of people”, in “the juvenile category”.

March 2, 2007 @ 9:50 am | Comment

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