Controversial scholars offer transition advice to Chinese leadership Published: 2016/9/23 14:44:58

Refusing to be categorized as the Chinese government's brain trust, a group of independent Chinese scholars are being consulted by the country's top leaders in hope of aiding the transition from "a government of omnipotence, mystery, power, caprice and interests," to a transparent, responsible, neutral one which assumes limited power and has the trust of the people.

As China Newsweek reported, the scholars are regularly invited to Zhongnanhai, the central government compound in Beijing, to discuss the transition with President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang, and deliver lectures to the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China Central Committee.

The political leanings of the group have been the source of some controversy, as they have been described as right-wing by left-wing experts, and described as left-wing by those on the right. Despite being branded as both nationalists and intellectual mercenaries, the group of scholars insists on independent thinking, as well as mild and rational voicing of criticism.

Jia Kang, director of the Research Institute for Fiscal Science under the Ministry of Finance, is among the controversial scholars. He gave lectures at Zhongnanhai on the invitation of former premier Zhu Rongji in 2002, former premier Wen Jiabao in 2004 and 2005, and then president Hu Jintao in 2006, China Newsweek reported.

Never one to hold back, Jia has highlighted the way in which conflicts of interest between different governmental departments have hindered social reforms, citing the integrated development plan for Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei as an example.

The plan was postponed for some 20 years due to a failure by the central government to balance the interests of various departments, such as finance, land resource management, and environmental protection.

Jia expected a systematic and effective reform of the cabinet ministries to streamline the government department functions, namely running super ministries in the central government body. 

Jia believes that "democratic budgeting" serves as the prerequisite for overall democracy, suggesting an open budget to combat the illicit use of public funds.

When giving lectures to the Political Bureau on reform of the fiscal and tax systems, Jia recalled that top leaders would make note of his recommendations, instead of seeking to discredit his views.

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