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Is China on real track to reform?

Source:Global Times Published: 2013-6-23 21:38:01

Media experts hold a discussion at a session of the Fourth China-Germany Media Forum in Berlin on Friday. Photo: Ma Bing/GT

Media experts hold a discussion at a session of the Fourth China-Germany Media Forum in Berlin on Friday. Photo: Ma Bing/GT


Editor's Note:

The Fourth China-Germany Media Forum, sponsored by the Global Times and the Robert Bosch Foundation, concluded Friday in Berlin, Germany. Media experts from the two sides engaged in talks over challenges and risks facing both governments and societies. One key session was themed around challenges facing the new Chinese leadership in the next decade.

Sebastian Heilmann, professor at the University of Trier

There have been doubts whether in the 21st century, governments are capable of providing solutions for thorny challenges in many fields, such as the management of financial market, climate change, aging and adjustment in energy usage.

US President Barack Obama made a public speech at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin on June 20, which was seen by some as a big show. People are questioning whether figures like Obama can still devise efficient and insightful strategies.

Before the new Chinese leadership came on stage, some Western media outlets were wondering whether a figure like former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev could appear and push a grand political reform within a very short period. Nonetheless, Chinese President Xi Jinping has already made it clear that a gradual approach would be followed.

Efficient government solutions are indispensable. It has already been proved by Western experiences that purely relying on market forces won't help solve these issues. I believe China will find a new path and new institutional solutions.

Dai Xiaojing, president of the SEEC Media Group

When you are waiting and looking while other cars are climbing along a steep slope, you don't feel nervous. But when it's your own turn and you drive along the slope, there is a moment that you suddenly cannot see what is ahead and what will happen next. Nonetheless, you can neither abruptly slam brakes nor press hard on the accelerator. You have to steadily drive ahead.

It's exactly like China at the moment. We are not sure what is ahead, and we know a middle income trap will probably appear. We can neither stop reform nor push an overnight shake-up like Gorbachev once did.

For China, the rule of law cannot be instantly realized, but we can first practice rule by law, and adjust the power structure. We also need proactive ideological adjustment, which better suits China's development and reality.

Uta-Micaela Durig, head of market management and sustainable development at Bosch Group

China stresses following a gradual reform process, but it's been decades. When will China find its path?

Fostering civil society and boosting social participation are very important in this process. In Germany, there are very big projects in which procedures are strictly followed and civil participation guaranteed. The well-known controversy over the Stuttgart 21 rail project is an example. The East German Round Table is also seen as a very good form of social participation.

Hu Xijin, editor-in-chief of the Global Times

If you look at members of this new Chinese leadership, you will find they have similar life experiences. They all experienced hard times when China's living standards were quite low, they later received a good education, and are familiar with both Western practices and China's own national situation. They can keep a cool head in China's interactions with the West.

The Chinese see the Soviet path of democratization as a tragedy with huge costs. No one wants the upstaging of a Gorbachev-style figure who kidnaps the interests of the whole nation with irrational political design.

When our German counterparts talk about the timetable of China's road, there is an idea that China hasn't found its path yet, and the success will only be realized when China, with the West as the example to learn from, achieves Western success. But this idea is wrong. China is not standing at a crossroads. It is already on its way of socialism with Chinese characteristics.

Chen Xiaochuan, editor-in-chief of China Youth Daily

In the past 34 years, China has been transforming itself with a maximized level of stability. If former Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping had pursued Gorbachev's way of political reform, half of the Chinese population would still be living in starvation.

The Stuttgart 21 railway project has been debated for 19 years, and not even one single brick has been laid there. You spent 19 years, but haven't achieved consensus, so you could do nothing. You prefer taking actions after thorough discussions and clear expressions. Chinese are different. We've already made lots of preparations for expanding inner-Party democracy. And we may only express it clearly after the actions are already taken.

Chen Tong, editor-in-chief of sina.com.cn

I want to provide an opinion poll released in 2011, when Gorbachev celebrated his 80th birthday. The Russians still barely like this former leader - 47 percent of Russians didn't care about him at all, 25 percent felt indignant or that he was obnoxious, and only 15 percent had any respect or sympathy for him.

Bai Yansong, host with China Central Television

A social consensus is being formed in China: Crisis does exist in China at various levels, but we have to solve it with greater reform rather than going back.

Some are questioning why after more than three decades of reform, people are missing the past. In 1978, you had safe food, fresh air and clean water. But is this really true? Three decades ago, we had safe food, but little of it. And hunger was the greater factor in food insecurity. We also had clean air and water, but poverty was greater than pollution.

Liu Beixian, president of the China News Service and China Newsweek

The conflicts involving population, resource and the environment are increasingly prominent in China, and are already so sharp that orderly development might be undermined and there could be a crisis of development.

China has already realized that change must be introduced. During the 18th CPC National Congress, the establishment of an ecological civilization has been raised to the strategic level, together with the economic, political, cultural and social construction.

Practical actions are being taken. June 17 this year has become China's first National Low Carbon Day. The government is launching various campaigns to help promote green strategies among enterprises, and boost social cohesion on environmental protection. From 2006 to 2012, energy use per unit of GDP has declined by 23.6 percent.

The media and the public are supervising this process with increasingly sharp criticism. This is a small facet of the nation's actions in bringing change.

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