In 2013, China’s current leaders Hu and Wen will hand over the reins to the next leaders. The decade-long administration has witnessed more problems than achievements. Recently, Deng Yuwen, vice editor of the party’s weekly Study Times, provided a thoughtful analysis of China’s current political situation by listing ten ‘serious ’problems. They include issues with China’s economic structure, income distribution, household registration system, population control, education, pollution, energy exploitation, social morality, foreign policy, and democratization. The three-part article is titled The Political Legacy of Hu and Wen.
“The Political Legacy of Hu and Wen”
On September 2, Deng Yuwen, associate editor of the Central Party School’s weekly Study Times, published a three-part article entitled The Political Legacy of Hu and Wen, analyzing in the first section some successful aspects of the two Chinese leaders’ reign while pointing out ten ‘serious’ problems besetting this ten-year-old administration in the second section. Unfortunately, all three sections of the article are being removed from all websites inside China. Click here to read Deng’s article in its entirety.
Deng recognized that the decade following Hu and Wen’s assumption of power in 2002 has witnessed tremendous progress in terms of China’s economic capacity, political transparency, and social construction.
However, the country has come upon more problems than achievements. These problems invariably result from its reluctance in bringing about political reform. Moreover, new forms of media (like blogs and microblogs) have made the public more aware of civil rights. Despite government control and censorship, calls for immediate change in terms of social equality continue to arise.
According to Deng, China continues to fulfill its historical mission (?) of establishing national independence and prosperity, a tenet set right after the establishment of the People’s Republic of China. During these ten years, China has sped up its modernization drive, guiding traditional industries towards a more technology-oriented path. Deng listed seven achievements during this period:
China became the second largest economy of the world right after the U.S., laying foundations for ‘building up a comprehensively well-off society” (全面建设小康社会),’ a goal to be fulfilled by 2020.
- New perspectives on social development, such as ‘Scientific Development,’ are brought forward in response to the party’s guideline of social transformation in the 21st century.
- Basic improvements in political transparency were observed, marked by the release of Regulations on Open Government Information during SARS period in 2004. These improvements were and propelled by new, more open media.
- China’s accession into the WTO makes it more open to the world, both economically and culturally.
- Social development in such areas as education, medical care, social security, housing and social assistance became available to people at large.
- Urbanization is overwhelmingly fast. China’s urbanization rate hits 50% of the total population for the first time in history, marking its transformation from an agricultural country to an industrial one.
- China managed to bring forth its own ideas and perspective on the global order and rise above other countries, while maintaining dedicated to its ‘China Model’ by emphasizing harmony in both global and social sphere.
Yet, to be honest, writes Deng, these are the ten years that also saw problems which are not only eminent, but imminent. He described ten problems requiring urgent solution for the next set of leaders:
There has been no breakthrough in terms of reorganizing the new economic structure and establishing a consumer society. The development model based on foreign investment and extensive consumption of domestic energy is prone to collapsing due to volatile foreign economic environments.
- Due to slow reforms in income distribution, real estate market and the stock market, China sustains only a weak middle-class; this segment of society is responsible for social stability and prosperity.
- The rural-urban gap is widening due to the existing household registration system (户籍制), resulting in increasing rural-urban conflicts, such as rural land loss and the exploitation of rural labor in urban centers.
- The population control policy has made China an aged society. China’s population is disproportionately aged, as senior citizens begin to outnumber the young.
- Educational and scientific research institutes are running on an administrative and profit-driven basis, curbing the development of independent and innovative research.
- Pollution is causing the environment to deteriorate.
- The lack of a stable energy supply system makes China subject to changes from without.
- Former moral and ideological systems established during the revolutionary period are on the verge of collapse as people hunt for profit in a prevailing market economy without any moral standard to judge their behaviors.
- China lacks a proactive strategy in terms of foreign policy. The tendency to focus on inward development puts China in an inferior position in tackling international disputes.
- Highly anticipated political reform and democratization falls short of the public’s expectation.
Considering both the achievements and problems of the last decade, Deng suggests that China’s incoming leaders not only promote economic restructuring and adjust their former model of development, but also start on the path of political reform and implement the rule of law.
As China’s economic growth rate hits the lowest point in recent years, Deng deems it necessary to boost the economy so that China does not fall below the poverty line. However, former models of economic development, such as extravagantly funding local projects, should not be encouraged. Instead, the government needs to stimulate an economy which is based on domestic demand. Two approaches hence are suggested: raising income standards and improving the social security system. The goal should be not only to alleviate the burdens placed on state banks but also to stimulate domestic consumption. Besides, state fund shall be allocated to more innovation-oriented industries than to those of excessive production capacity so that the investments are worthwhile.
As for democratization, Deng advocates “an approach with Chinese characteristics:” avoid violence and conflicts by guaranteeing people’s right to vote in elections; manage, supervise and promote the rule of law. For Deng, both the Chinese people and the Communist party have reached a consensus of democratization, but they are divided in their approach to practical implementation. Deng prescribes the rule of law as a pivotal element in democracy and further specifies that universal suffrage is still unrealizable in China now but basic local elections shall be encouraged to hold local governments accountable.
“Democratization and political reform are a necessary step for China to take, however hard it might be” Deng concludes.
The era of Hu and Wen will end next month. Their successors must respond to a great challenge in addressing to China’s unfulfilled tasks.
Deng Yuwen is a senior journalist and associate editor with the party’s weekly Study Times. He has gained a master degree in Law and his research mainly focuses on China’s political reform and social transformation. He’s a professional commentator in politics, finance and economics, as well as social issues.
Summarized by Xiaoyuan Li
Xiaoyuan Li is a post-graduate in International Journalism at Beijing Foreign Studies University. She is currently an intern with the China Program at The Carter Center.