New Chinese Communist Leader May Be Closet Reformist

Although Xi Jinping, the Chinese regime’s presumptive next leader, has not been seen in public for two weeks, there are signs that when he takes the helm of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) this fall he may push for political and economic reform in the country–possibly with some vigor.

Analysts who have parsed remarks made by Xi or on his behalf say that he has been surprisingly bold in communicating reform-oriented policy directions and ideas even before assuming office.

Deng Yuwen, vice-editor of Study Times, which is affiliated with the Party School of the Central Committee of the CCP, published a three-part article titled “The Political Legacy of Hu and Wen” in the relatively liberal financial magazine Caijing on Sept. 2.

Xi Jinping is the principal of the Party School, which runs Study Times.

Though the first article listed some achievements by Hu and Wen, the second and third contained harsh criticism and listed 10 major problems in Chinese society. The article was later removed from Caijing’s website.

According to Deng, although Hu and Wen have made some contributions, “the decade-long administration has created more problems than achievements.” The problems include failing to make adjustments to the economic structure, and not making progress in political reform and democratization.

The article also expressed Deng’s expectation of Xi Jinping. “The solution to all these problems ultimately lies in political reform and the depth of political reform. Therefore, the leaders should be courageous in taking the first step to push for political reform and democratization,” Deng said.

“The end of an era is the beginning of another era… How the successor(s) can solve the problems will affect China’s plan of peaceful development and how fast China will rise or stop rising. We therefore must have a sense of crisis,” Deng added.

An article by Boxun, an overseas Chinese-language dissident website, comments that Study Times has previously published many articles on reform, and some of the articles may have presented Xi Jinping’s viewpoints.

Deng is also a commentator and columnist for Phoenix News Media. His research focuses on reform and social transformation in China.

In an article published on Phoenix News Media on March 25, 2011, Deng wrote that the Party should have a sense of urgency about political reform, and shouldn’t have an ostrich mentality; the goal of political reform is to establish freedom and democracy, he said.

Unprecedented Problems

Xi Jinping met with prominent reformer Hu Deping over the past six weeks, Reuters reported on Sept. 7. Hu is the son of former Party leader Hu Yaobang.

Statements and quotes in the Reuters’ article echo Deng Yuwen’s statements.

“The problems that China has accumulated are unprecedented,” one of the Reuters’ sources said, paraphrasing an alleged written summary of Xi’s remarks circulated among some retired Chinese officials.

“We must seek progress and change while remaining steady,” Xi was quoted as saying, through another party.

In the private meeting, Xi also urged restraint by advocates of more radical change, the Reuters’ sources said. But he hinted that gradual political reforms aimed at tethering some of the Communist Party’s powers could come later, the sources said.

“We’ve got to hold high the banner of reform, including political system reform,” a source said, paraphrasing Xi.

“Xi has said that people are tired of big talk with no action, so he’ll avoid making unrealistic promises.”

No Way Out

A few China experts have commented that they doubted that Xi would make such remarks during this sensitive time.

However, Sun Affairs’ report confirmed that Xi and Hu Deping have indeed discussed political reform, and therefore, as the 18th Party Congress approaches, political reform will come sooner than people have expected, and economic reform will be pushed forward at an accelerated pace.

Sun Affairs CEO Chen Ping, who is a good friend of Hu Deping, also confirmed to Deutsche Welle that Xi and Hu have met. He said he believes that Xi will push for reform when he takes office.

“Without reform, China won’t have a way out, nor will Xi Jinping,” Chen told Deutsche Welle.

According to Voice of America (VOA), many people who are close to Xi Jinping are reformers. VOA interviewed Zhou Duo, a Beijing-based independent scholar who is a researcher in political reform and who has close contact with reform-minded Party officials. Zhou commented that the Reuters report completely reflects Xi Jinping’s style.

According to Zhou, Xi’s special background and experience have enabled him to get in touch with controversial people.

“Including some of my friends, that I have direct contact with, he has met them,” Zhou said. “He listens to different opinions from a wide variety of sources… This is Xi’s political trait.”

by Jane Lin


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