Mainland China's Paradox: The More Developed the Economy, the More Serious the Political Crisis
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
October 21, 2010
Executive Summary: The Fifth Plenary Session of the 17th Party Congress has adjourned. No major political reform programs emerged. The quest for stability remains the ultimate concern of the Chinese Communist Party. This does not mean that demands for political reform can be postponed, or that the people's voices can be ignored. Observers believe Beijing is merely shelving them, with the intention of dealing with them later. They do not believe Beijing is an ostrich burying its head in the sand. They do not believe Beijing will allow the situation to deteriorate. Recently rumors have emerged that President Hu Jintao intends to promote a "socialist two-party system." If true, Beijing has already broken out of its mental box. The rumor may be true, or it may be false. Either way, Mainland China's political reform has reached a watershed. The Hu-Wen regime knows only too well that "defying the will of the people is ultimately a dead end."
Full Text below:
The Fifth Plenary Session of the 17th Party Congress has adjourned. No major political reform programs emerged. The quest for stability remains the ultimate concern of the Chinese Communist Party. This does not mean that demands for political reform can be postponed, or that the people's voices can be ignored. Observers believe Beijing is merely shelving them, with the intention of dealing with them later. They do not believe Beijing is an ostrich burying its head in the sand. They do not believe Beijing will allow the situation to deteriorate.
One reason for their belief is Wen Jiabao, who recently said, "Defying the will of the people is ultimately a dead end." The words "dead end" reveal that the Chinese Communist Party is fully aware of the problem. On the other hand, during an interview with a Western reporter, Wen mentioned death in another context. He said, "come rain or come shine, we will not give up until we are dead." This underscores the difficulty of political reform.
These invocations of the word "dead" or "death," offer an overview of political reform on the mainland. On the one hand, Beijing is aware that if it fails to undertake reform, it will eventually reach a dead end. On the other hand, Beijing is aware of the difficulty of reform, and how slim the chances for successful reform are. But political reform is no less urgent merely because real world difficulties abound. Especially when the key reason for the Chinese Communist Party's difficulties is its own procrastination.
Political reform is urgent. Consider an historical precedent. As Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev noted in his "Message to Compatriots in the Soviet Union," "When I became head of state (in 1985) the nation was clearly in a state of crisis. The reasons were obvious. Society, shackled by a bureaucratic command system, was close to suffocation. Society was forced to serve ideology. Society was forced to bear the burden of the arms race, and was already exhausted. Partial reform measures had failed. We could no longer live like this. We had to fundamentally change everything." Isn't Gorbachev's tone similar to that of Wen Jiabao?
Conditions in the Soviet Union just before its implosion cannot be compared to conditions on the Mainland today. But the core issue remains the same. The nation is under the control of a single party dictatorship which dominates society and monopolizes its resources. Mainland China's political system has undergone three decades of "reform and liberalization." The CCP is now caught in a cycle from which it cannot escape. The more it implements "reform and liberalization," the more corruption spreads, and the greater the public's perceived sense of deprivation. As a result, reform becomes ever more threatening and ever more difficult. As a result, even though the CCP is aware of the need for reform, partial reform efforts invariably end in failure. Intellectuals such as Liu Xiaobo say "we can not go on like this." Wen Jiabao of course understands that "without guarantees of political reform, the results of economic reform may be lost."
Reform and liberalization means forsaking class struggle and moving toward "economic development as the central value." It makes no difference whether the society is referred to as socialist or capitalist. What matters is liberating the productivity of the people and society. But one-party dictatorship has concentrated the wealth produced in the hands of those in power -- central and local level government officials. Government officials and business interests have monopolized most of the benefits. Economic growth fattens the pocketbooks of the rich and the powerful. Many party officials live lives of unbridled decadence. Compare this to the past. Mao Zedong's Great Leap Forward and class struggle impoverished the nation, to the point where everyone was utterly destitute. Indignation and discontent were widespread. But if one compares yesterday's universal suffering, with today's unequal suffering. Inequality may grate on people's emotions even more than suffering. As a result, the greater the economic development, the greater the social unrest.
The Fifth Plenary Session is aware of the problem of inequality. Discussions of the "ten two five plan" have therefore concentrated on narrowing the income gap, the urban vs. rural gap, the east vs. west gap, and the rich vs. poor gap. The Fifth Plenary Session touts "inclusive growth." It understands that "unless one divides the pie evenly, it will be impossible to bake a bigger pie." The problem is not merely inequality. Inequality is merely a material issue. The problem involves two issues. One is corruption. The CCP has already experienced a serious loss of public trust. The moral foundation of its rule is built on quicksand. The other is dictatorship. The CCP remains a one-party dictatorship. This democratic dictatorship is guilty of uncontrolled corruption. It exploits the public. It deprives them of their rights. The public is unable to seek redress. Therefore on the surface, Mainland China's economy appears increasingly prosperous. But a closer look reveals that the greater the economic development, the more severe the political and social crises. Hence, Wen Jiabao's references to death.
Recently rumors have emerged that President Hu Jintao intends to promote a "socialist two-party system." If true, Beijing has already broken out of its mental box. The rumor may be true, or it may be false. Either way, Mainland China's political reform has reached a watershed. The Hu-Wen regime knows only too well that "defying the will of the people is ultimately a dead end."
2010.10.21 01:33 am