Sunday, October 28, 2012

China Churning

China is at a stage where it can no longer expect dramatic growth without some serious political reform.

China's ruling families: Torrent of scandal
Mr Xi needs to venture deep into political reform, including setting a timetable for the direct election of government leaders as Deng Xiaoping once suggested should be possible.
China’s new leadership: Vaunting the best, fearing the worst
The China he is preparing to rule is becoming cynical and anxious as growth slows and social and political stresses mount. ..... a quadrupling of China’s economy since he took over in 2002, he has reason to crow. In the same period China has grown from the world’s fifth-largest exporter to its biggest. ...... During the past ten years fees and taxes imposed on farmers, once a big cause of rural unrest, have been scrapped; government-subsidised health insurance has been rolled out in the countryside, so that 97% of farmers (up from 20% a decade ago) now have rudimentary cover; and a pension scheme, albeit with tiny benefits, has been rapidly extended to all rural residents. Tuition fees at government schools were abolished in 2007 in the countryside for children aged between six and 15, and in cities the following year (though complaints abound about other charges levied by schools). ....... huge government investment in affordable housing. A building spree launched in 2010 aims to produce 36m such units by 2015 at what China’s state-controlled media say could be a cost of more than $800 billion. ...... 95% of all Chinese now have at least some degree of health cover, up from less than 15% in 2000 ...... Its influence is now evident in places where it was hardly felt a decade ago, from African countries that supply it with minerals, to European ones that see China’s spending power and its mountain of foreign currency as bulwarks against their own economic ruin. It is even planning to land a man on the moon. ....... the rapid development of social media: services similar to Twitter and Facebook (both of which are blocked in China) that have achieved extraordinary penetration into the lives of Chinese of all social strata, especially the new middle class ...... The government tries strenuously to censor dissenting opinion online, but the digital media offer too many loopholes. ........ In September photographs circulated by microbloggers of a local bureaucrat smiling at the scene of a fatal traffic accident, and wearing expensive watches, led to his dismissal. ........ Many of the most widely circulated comments on microblogs share a common tone: one of profound mistrust of the party and its officials. Classified digests of online opinion are distributed among Chinese leaders. They pay close attention. ....... Even in the official media, articles occasionally appear describing the next ten years as unusually tough ones for China, economically and politically. ....... growing numbers of people losing hope and linking up with like-minded folk through the internet. It said these problems could, if mishandled, cause “a chain reaction that results in social turmoil or violent revolution”. ...... The next ten years, argued Mr Yuan, offered the “last chance” for economic reforms that could prevent China from sliding into a “middle-income trap” of fast growth followed by prolonged stagnation. ....... Leftists worry that the party will implode, like its counterparts in the former Soviet Union and eastern Europe, because it has embraced capitalism too wholeheartedly and forgotten its professed mission to serve the people. Rightists worry that China’s economic reforms have not gone nearly far enough and that political liberalisation is needed to prevent an explosion of public resentment. ...... Hu Xingdou of the Beijing Institute of Technology says it has become common among intellectuals to wonder whether 70 years is about the maximum a single party can remain in power, based on the records set by the Soviet Communist Party and Mexico’s Institutional Revolutionary Party. China’s party will have done 70 years in 2019. ........ most agree that the heady double-digit days of much of the past ten years are over. ... His late father, some note, had liberal leanings. The Dalai Lama once gave a watch to the elder Mr Xi, who wore it long after the Tibetan leader had fled into exile. This has fuelled speculation that Xi Jinping might be conciliatory to Tibetans. Wishful thinking abounds
Xi Jinping: The man who must change China
Across the world, China is seen as second in status and influence only to America. ..... China is “unstable at the grass roots, dejected at the middle strata and out of control at the top”. ...... Complaints that would once have remained local are now debated nationwide. ...... Last week Qiushi , the party’s main theoretical journal, called on the government to “press ahead with restructuring of the political system”. ....... Mr Xi could start by giving a little more power to China’s people. Rural land, now collectively owned, should be privatised and given to the peasants; the judicial system should offer people an answer to their grievances; the household-registration, or hukou, system should be phased out to allow families of rural migrants access to properly funded health care and education in cities. At the same time, he should start to loosen the party’s grip. China’s cosseted state-owned banks should be exposed to the rigours of competition; financial markets should respond to economic signals, not official controls; a free press would be a vital ally in the battle against corruption. ...... in the 1980s no less a man than Deng spoke of China having a directly elected central leadership after 2050 ...... political reform would make the party answerable to the courts and, as the purest expression of this, free political prisoners. It would scrap party-membership requirements for official positions and abolish party committees in ministries. It would curb the power of the propaganda department to impose censorship and scrap the central military commission, which commits the People’s Liberation Army to defend the party, not just the country. ....... Independent candidates should be encouraged to stand for people’s congresses, the local parliaments that operate at all levels of government, and they should have the freedom to let voters know what they think. A timetable should also be set for directly electing government leaders, starting with townships in the countryside and districts in the cities, perhaps allowing five years for those experiments to settle in, before taking direct elections up to the county level in rural areas, then prefectures and later provinces, leading all the way to competitive elections for national leaders
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