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Top Chinese Leader Promises "Unprecedented" (and Unlikely) Reforms


“The reforms this time will be broad, with major strength, and will be unprecedented,” Yu Zhengsheng, a member of the elite Politburo Standing Committee of the Communist Party in China, announced this weekend. “Inevitably they will strongly push forward profound transformations in the economy, society and other spheres.”

When China’s President Xi Jinping came into office last year, many observers wondered if he would be a political reformer. Since then, those who hoped he would relax the Communist Party’s controls on life in China have been disappointed: Xi has tightened restrictions on the press and the internet. But are reforms back on the horizon, as Yu Zhengsheng’s comments seem to suggest? Are big changes coming in China?

Perhaps. Leading up to a major policy-setting conference next month, Chinese officials have been talking up the necessity of economic reforms. When these “unprecedented” reforms are enacted, we’re likely to know much more about the direction China’s new President wants to take, with the early word suggesting that significant economic changes are coming down the pike.

But firm details on the exact changes to come are hard to come by. One bold proposal called Plan 383 and developed by the State Council Development Research Center is getting attention in the media because it urges serious political and economic reform and limits to the Communist Party’s control on China’s economy and society in “strikingly forthright and specific” language. Chris Buckley at the New York Times parses the details of the plan here.

Plan 383, however, is one of a number of such proposals. Others are less bold. Without political reform, serious economic changes are unlikely to get far in the plenum coming up next month. There’s no reason to expect entrenched interests inside and outside the Chinese political elite to be interested in reform.

[Former Chinese vice president Wang Qishan (L) and Shanghai Party Chief Yu Zhengsheng present at the closing session of the National People’s Congress (NPC) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on March 17, 2013. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.]

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  • lukelea

    “There’s no reason to expect entrenched interests inside and outside the Chinese political elite to be interested in reform.” Ever. After all Confucianism went on for ever.

    The Party will never surrender power voluntarily. You can forget about that. Ergo, the impetus for liberal reform must come from without — from the the underground growth of Christianity, most likely, bolstered by coordinated Western economic pressure (that OECD Parliament of Nations idea again, offering high tariffs and restrictions of travel/immigration, access to foreign universities, etc. in lieu of reform). Is there any other way? I doubt it.

  • Jacksonian_Libertarian

    The Communist Party will do nothing which dilutes the power and wealth of party members.

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