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Is Wen 'putting on a show'?

October 19, 2010

Claude Arpi Blog
October 17, 2010

There is an interesting debate today in China. Is
Wen Jiabao, the Chinese Premier 'putting on a
show' when he speaks about democratic reforms
like in Shenzhen in August or more recently in
the US (in an interview with Zakaria).

One point is sure, Wen will retire in 2012; he
does not risk anything if he speaks about reforms
today: nothing can happen to him after retirement.

At the same time, as many observers have pointed
out, in today's China, even the Premier of the
State Council (Prime Minister) is censored. It must be upsetting.

The South China Morning Post mentioned the letter
written by some former senior editors and
journalists: "Sponsors of the open letter seemed
most outraged by the fact that even Wen had been
censored. They cited examples of his speech in
Shenzhen on August 21, a talk with journalists in
the US on September 22 and his speech to the
United Nations General Assembly on September 23."

Perhaps more importantly, Wen's speeches seems to
bring a new element in the on-going discussion in
the CCP Plenum "that was supposed to be a
scripted part of an issue-less transition to a
new leadership in 2012".  Observers had already
'guessed' who would be the leaders, not only in
2012, but also five years latter.

The utterances of Wen on democracy demonstrates
that there is today another factor in the power
struggle for the 2012 succession. The main
factions are not only the Communist Youth League
Clique (lead by Hu Jintao) and the Gang of
Princelings (lead by Xi Jinping), but perhaps is also a 'reform faction'.

Are they enough to tilt the Plenum and bring
about real changes? Only the future will tell us.
But the 'embarrassment' (at least for the Party)
of Lui Xiaobo being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize
is certainly an element which could help the 'reform' faction.

Unfortunately the PLA clique will probably fight
hard against the introduction of 'political'
reforms.though amongst the generals there are
also 'reformers'.  General Liu Yazhou recently
declared: "The secret of US success is neither
Wall Street nor Silicon Valley, but its
long-surviving rule of law and the system behind
it... Democracy is the most urgent; without it
there is no sustainable rise. Ideals of democracy
are not restricted by national borders, or by historical ones."

Complicate! Complicate!

-------------------------
Democracy Should Not Be Divided Into Capitalist and Socialist
Yanhuang Chunqiu
October, 2010, p. 38.

Du Daozheng, director of the editorial board at Yanhuang Chunqiu

In the history of China’s economic reform and
opening, the special economic zone is an
especially rich chapter. The [recent]
commemoration of the 30th anniversary of the
Shenzhen Special Economic Zone was something
everyone, from the central [leadership] to the
local areas, paid particular attention to. On
August 20 and 21, on the eve of Shenzhen’s 30th
anniversary, State Council Premier Wen Jiabao
(???) went to Shenzhen on an inspection tour and
made a speech there. On September 6, in the midst
of grand celebrations to commemorate Shenzhen’s
30th anniversary, CCP Central Committee General
Secretary Hu Jintao (???) also gave a speech.
These two speeches from our Party and government
leaders were hotly debated both inside and
outside China. A number of us old friends have
found it impossible to avoid discussing these
issues when we come together. A number of my
views have been gathered together by an old
friend “spanning generations” in
question-and-answer form. After looking it over I
found it rather interesting, and thought it
suitable to be published in concise form and
presented in the interest of exchanging ideas
among friends attending to these issues.

Q: Throughout the history of economic opening and
reform, debates have never ceased. More recently,
surrounding the commemoration of the 30th
anniversary of the Shenzhen Special Economic
Zone, we’ve seen what seems to be a new wave of
debate. Many people are debating Premier Wen’s
speech in Shenzhen. What are your views?

A: Premier Wen Jiabao’s speech has drawn
attention, in my view, [principally] on the level
of politics. Wen Jiabao mentioned political
reform many times in Shenzhen, both in formal
addresses and in informal remarks as part of his
inspection visit, and he raised [the issue of]
political reform to a new level. He said: Without
the protection afforded by political reforms, we
will lose the gains [we have made] through
economic reforms, and our goal of modernization cannot be achieved.”

"We stand at a great new juncture in our history,
and we must continue to liberate our thinking,
searching bravely. [We] cannot stand still, and
even less can we afford to step backward.
Standing still and stepping backward will not
only mean wasting the gains of 30 years of
opening and reform and a precious opportunity for
development . . . but these contravene the will
of the people, and they are ultimately dead ends.
On this major question concerning the fate and
future of our country, we must not have a moment’s hesitation.”

Wen Jiabao refers to our present era as "a great
new juncture in our history," and I believe there
is much sense in this. The history of opening and
reform is 32 years long . . . and China’s
economic reforms have brought achievements that
command attention. But many problems have also
emerged. Just as when Deng Xiaoping (???) made
his “southern tour,” the question of the
direction forward for Shenzhen is actually a
question about the direction China is heading.
This demands that our Party clearly recognize the
situation and the tasks that face us. I think
Comrade Wen Jiabao, in placing the crux of
continued advancement of reforms on the task of
political reform, has cut to the heart of the
issue. In recent years, our comrades in the
Central Committee of the CCP have rarely paid
such attention to political reform, nor
especially have they [as Wen Jiabao has] elevated
the obstructions to reform as “contrary to the
will of the people” and as a “dead end” . . .

Q: In recent years, both in the political sphere
and among the public, particularly on the
internet, controversy over Wen Jiabao has never
ceased. Some have said that he’s talked about
things for years, but done very little, that he
is “putting on a show.” What do you think?

A: I have something of a different view about the
suggestion he is "putting on a show."
"Putting on a show" is something one does before
an audience of people, no? When you look at this
more broadly, you can say that any leader, either
before his people or in the realm of foreign
relations, is acting in every instance in the
manner of a performance. Now why do people say
that Wen Jiabao is “putting on a show”? That’s
because there are very few leaders in the Central
Committee who have spoken as [Wen] has.
If we had more central leaders talking every day
like this, putting on "shows" every day, that
would be a wonderful thing. Sunshine governance,
with a respect for the people’s right to know,
would be immense progress over [the politics of] shadow and mystery.

Q: When people say Wen Jiabao is "putting on a
show" this has another layer of meaning. His
speeches are very fine, but they are rarely acted upon.

A: In my view he has always worked tirelessly for
opening and reform. In terms of action, among the
highest-level leaders in the Central Committee,
he has not only made his position clear, but he
has also worked very hard. His style and manner
are about closeness and service to the people.
During winter storms, earthquakes and floods he
has appeared on the front lines at the first
available moment. He has shaken hands with SARS
sufferers and AIDS patients. He is also a living
person, with his own thread of life, but he has
worked without consideration for himself. This is
not “putting on a show.” He is a very well read
man, with a very good memory. I think that his
manner and actions are based on his wide
knowledge and the excellent traditions of Chinese culture.
On several occasions Wen Jiabao has openly spoken
on the issue of political reform, and these I’m
afraid were not incidental. In my view, he
recognizes on the one hand the current
predicament facing reforms in China, and on the
other hand he has suggested that this is not
[merely] his personal view. I personally believe
that Hu Jintao supports Wen Jiabao. On a number
of important questions this year, [Hu] has
loosened his hand and let the Premier [take the
lead]. Zhao Ziyang (???)once said to me, "Wen
Jiabao is a good person, and Hu Jintao is a
sensible person." I think this assessment is
right on. I think Wen Jiabao should be given more
support, creating the conditions enabling him to
make use of his abilities. This would benefit the
country and benefit the people. Protecting Wen
Jiabao is about more than protecting an
individual – it means protecting the claim to
political reform, and protecting the forces [that
might promote] political reform.

Q: Still, many people have noticed that contrary
to Wen Jiabao’s speeches, Hu Jintao made little
mention of political reform in his speech during
celebrations [of Shenzhen's anniversary], so
perhaps these two have different views on this issue.

A: I’m not completely in support of this
interpretation. I’m a Party member who has lived
within this Party for some 70 years, and speaking
in terms of the structural nature of the Central
Committee, Wen Jiabao’s speeches should represent
the spirit of the Party. The key points
emphasized by Wen Jiabao and Hu Jintao can be
different, but in [their determination to]
unswervingly carry out reforms they are on the
same page. Since Hu Jintao became General
Secretary he has raised the issue of political
reform and promoted democracy on numerous
occasions. In his political report to the 17th
Party Congress in 2007, Hu Jintao said: “In
deepening political reforms, we must keep to the
correct political direction, ensuring that the
basis is that the people are the masters of their
own destiny, and that the vitality of the Party
and the nation are enhanced.” In 2005, Hu Jintao
said to provincial Party cadres that the
socialism and harmonious society that we need to
build are ones of democratic politics, justice
and fairness. We must actively and reliably
promote political reforms [he said]. He was even
so specific as to say during his speech
commemorating Shenzhen that in the future reforms
must be continued, that we must have the courage
for innovation, “never becoming rigid, never
standing still, not dreading any dangers, and not
being distracted by any interference.” While he
may not have spoken of political reform so openly
as Wen Jiabao, toward reform and toward the SEZ’s
role in striking out ahead [his remarks] have
still contained much about political reform.
Besides, Hu Jintao is the General Secretary, and
when he speaks it is more wide-ranging, and it is
natural that he accommodates all the various aspects of reform.
I recently saw a comment to this effect in one
media: "Wen Jiabao is not a high-minded
sermonizer, and nor is Hu Jintao an indecisive
navigator. Many Chinese who are eager for reform
are confident that Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao share
feelings for [former reformist PRC leader Hu]
Yaobang, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hu_Yaobang
meaning they are not laboring separately for
their own agendas, playing their own political
games, but are launching a converging attack,
that they working together to slay the tiger that
guards the road to reform, and together opening
the door to change in China.” This sentence represents my own views very well.

Q: In the course of the development of the
Shenzhen Special Economic Zone and the process of
opening and reform in China there have been three
major debates concerning reform. This latest [and
third] time has corresponded to the anniversary
of Shenzhen’s founding. We’ve seen the emergence
again of fierce debate around the speeches of Hu
Jintao and Wen Jiabao. How do you view this?

A: After the news came out of Wen Jiabao’s
inspection tour in Shenzhen, there was an essay
in one Beijing paper called, “Two Democracies of
Different Natures Must Not Be Confused“, on
September 4. The essay argued that on the
question of “who should rule” and “how [they]
should rule” socialism and capitalism had very
distinct answers. Whether on the question of
local experiments [in democracy], or in
larger-scale moves, [the essay said,] we must
begin by recognizing the difference between these
two distinct forms of democracy. The essay talks
about Shenzhen’s "separation of three
administrations” [based on the idea that the
functions of policy-making, enforcement and
monitoring of the government must be separated],
arguing that “concerning the separation of
government powers, the understanding is somewhat
fuzzy, and concepts even muddled . . . and the
reason lies in that these concepts have not been
clear about the line between socialist democracy
and capitalist democracy, and rigid Western
concepts are applied to Chinese realities.” I
think its inconceivable that this idea represents
the spirit of the Central Committee. Democracy is
democracy. There is no division between democracy
surnamed capitalism and democracy surnamed
socialism. There is only real democracy and fake democracy.
Did you notice the language in Nanfang Daily? On
September 6, Nanfang Daily, aside from having a
special edition on the 30th anniversary of the
SEZ, had a full page of editorials on political
reform. It was called, “Political Reform: The
Future Mission of the SEZ.” The headlines
included, “The Deepen Reform and Opening We Must
Keep to Marketization and Democratization,”
“Using Political Reform as the Core in Promoting
Other Reforms," "Deepening Political Reform: The
Breakthrough-Point for Future Reforms in the
SEZ," "In Realizing Justice and Fairness We Must
Take the Lead,” and others. In concert with Wen
Jiabao’s Shenzhen speech, they made concrete
statements about political reform: “Political
reforms and the building of democratic politics
require that we liberate our thought, breaking
through the news bonds of so-called socialist
versus capitalist democracy, making use of the
beneficial fruits of human political development
and democracy building.” I think the language in
Nanfang Daily represents the spirit of the
Central Committee, and the will of the people.
Of course we support the views of Nanfang Daily.
Moreover, I am confident that the Central
Committee is as determined as ever to deepen
reforms, and will be able to reach a new
consensus on reforms. That consensus is that we
must continue to break through these doubts about
whether political reform is surnamed capitalism
or surnamed socialism, just as Wen Jiabao has
said: “[We must] bravely study and adopt the all
of the civilized results of human society, and
promote continued economic and social development
in our country as we expand the process of opening."
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