Myanmar’s reforms no beacon for China

Source:Global Times Published: 2012-8-21 21:25:03

Myanmar's Information Ministry announced Monday that it was abolishing the practice of pre-publication censorship. During his first interview with foreign media in January, Myanmese President Thein Sein said Myanmar is "on the right track," and does not "have any intention to draw back." He also urged the West to ease sanctions on his country.

The changes taking place in Myanmar have great significance, as the country is walking out of its previous rigidity and stagnation and embracing a colorful future.

But what's happening in Myanmar is still reform in its essence, not revolution as in the Middle East. In China's surrounding countries, reforms, with different models and through different paths, are relatively vigorous. And they are somewhat inspired by the reforms in China.

In fact, China's reforms have encouraged reformers not only in Asian countries like Vietnam and Cambodia, but also in other continents like Africa and Latin America. Many later reformers, in turn, also begin to influence China with their experiences, and some become experimental examples for China to observe other possible ways of reform.

Nevertheless in recent years, there have been voices in China that criticize the country's reforms. They see Myanmar and Vietnam as pioneers that are way ahead of China in carrying out reforms, and thus require China to learn from the two. This actually lacks objectivity.

Vietnam's reforms were initiated after China's, and its economic and social accomplishments still lag behind those in China. Vietnam has more than 80 million people. But in economic volume, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, which is a relative backwater, is one and a half times as big as the whole of Vietnam.

China's per capita GDP is over four times that of Vietnam's, and its average level of social welfare is also much higher.

In political life, both countries have their own characteristics, and it's hard to do strict comparisons. Vietnam's parliamentary members enjoy relatively greater power, but China has greater social diversity and more open public opinion. In China, public opinion leaders and critics are everywhere, but these forces haven't been formed in Vietnam yet.

As for Myanmar, its burgeoning reforms are still very uncertain, and the effectiveness of various reform measures remains to be verified.

The reforms, which come after decades of the military junta, help release social vigor, but are also done to help get Western sanctions lifted.

All of these are experimental, and boldness is actually the most prominent characteristic of Myanmar's reforms.

Criticizing China for "being slow with its reforms" compared to some individual reform measures in Vietnam and Myanmar may bring some practical benefits here. China's reforms do need constant drive. It's not a bad thing if Vietnam and Myanmar reforms could help in this regard.

However, the success of a country's reforms does not lie in a single idea or a slogan, or whether reform measures are bold enough. The key criterion for assessment is how many practical benefits they can bring to ordinary people.

In the international arena, China's reforms usually do not enjoy enthusiastic praise. Gorbachev's reforms were hailed much more warmly than China's. Many countries in the commonwealth of independent states and, in recent years, some Asian countries have been hailed by the West for their reforms, whereas China constantly faces criticism.

However, the accomplishments of China's reforms, which went through various severe tests, have been proven, whereas Myanmar's reforms are still flower buds that haven't been exposed to wind and rain yet.

We sincerely hope Myanmar's reforms will prove successful. But it's naïve if we doubt the road we have taken, just because these buds look different from China's prosperous tree of reform.

China's press freedom has walked a fairly long way. We need to walk further in the future. But China should follow the trend of the times and look at the practical situation of the nation, rather than being perplexed and even letting backwater countries like Myanmar and Vietnam become our idols.

The article is an editorial published in the Chinese edition of the Global Times Tuesday.

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