Friday, November 29, 2013

Xi: Pushing reforms against fierce opposition - William Overholt

William Overholt (Photo credit: Fantake)
President Xi Jinping has set an ambitious agenda for reform, but will meet fierce opposition from established forces inside the communist party, warns political analyst William Overholt in the Moscow Times. Political reform - if any - will only be possible in his second term.

William Overholt:
President Xi Jinping faces the politically risky task of pushing the Chinese Communist Party's reform agenda against fierce opposition while the economy slows. By emphasizing Party control — through a crackdown on state-owned enterprises' government opponents, and critics in the media and academia — Xi seeks to maximize his ability to impose economic reforms while minimizing the risk of a challenge from conservative forces.
Above all, he is determined to avoid the fate of previous Chinese leaders like Hu Yaobang and Zhao Ziyang, who lost their jobs after a critical mass of their opponents came to believe that economic and political reform jeopardized Party control. So, at least for now, China will focus on another great wave of economic reform, whereas political reform will mostly be limited to reorganization of government agencies to boost efficiency and strengthen efforts to reduce corruption. (There have been some steps toward reform, including a decision to remove judges from local political control.)
And yet China will find it increasingly difficult to postpone stronger measures that would appease popular demands for fairness, including the establishment of an independent judiciary, which could prove to be no less an imperative than structural economic reforms. Likewise, the leaders must either accept much of the information revolution's swamping of controls or engage in far more costly repression.
Hopes for political reform rest on the possibility that Xi's second term will see the accession to top leadership of reformers like Politburo member Wang Yang and Vice President Li Yuanchao. For now, however, China will focus on another great wave of economic reform.
More in the Moscow Times.

William Overholt is a speaker at the China Speakers Bureau. Do you need him at your meeting or conference? Do get in touch or fill in our speakers' request form.

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