Xi committed to reform, but balancing domestic-int'l demand tricky

Source:Global Times Published: 2013-3-17 17:58:01

The most striking feature of the new Chinese leadership since being unveiled last November has been the strong commitment coming from the highest levels to deepen the reform and opening-up process. 

Top Chinese leader Xi Jinping has himself vowed that "reform will not stop" while at the same time insisting that the task requires "more political courage and wisdom."

What is also important is the new leadership's emphasis on the need for the Party to tolerate criticisms from outside and follow the Constitution, establishing a rule of law in the country, handling corruption, and adhering to "peaceful development" path while "never sacrificing" the country's core interests.

Controversies have been raised concerning whether the new top leader is a reformer or a conservative and to what extent the new leadership will push reforms forward.

Xi is not a conservative. He no doubt believes in the Party leading reforms and the supremacy of the public ownership system in the country's economy. But his track record in Fujian, Zhejiang and Shanghai proves he is committed to reforms, which, in his view, should not be carried out to fit the norms of a Western political system.

However, there is still no clear concept given by the leadership on what the nature of political reforms in the country should be. I expect it to further strengthen intra-party democracy in accordance with the 18th CPC National Congress dictum to make "people's democracy more extensive, fuller in scope and sounder in practice."

There are many challenges ahead for the new Chinese leadership. These will include addressing the continuing rural-urban income gap, regional development imbalance and social issues like corruption and unemployment.

Also on the list are dwindling economic growth, over-dependence on imported oil, environmental bottlenecks and the unrest among retrenched workers. 

The Party under Xi's stewardship may also have to seriously strive for eradicating the ideological confusion that has come to prevail in the Party, particularly the perceived existence of barriers to reforms from "vested interests."

Some scholars in China have talked about "disparity of opinions on deepening reforms." It is no surprise, under such conditions, that Xi focused in his "southern tour" speech on the need for the Party to learn lessons from the Soviet collapse.

The new Chinese leadership has geopolitical challenges too, like separatism threats from the ethnic minorities-inhabited regions of Xinjiang and Tibet and the unsolved territorial issues in the neighborhood, especially against the background of Sino-US rivalry. Managing them will depend on the ability of the new leadership to make policy responses.

The Hu Jintao administration faced a dilemma in balancing the country's declared aim to develop diplomatic relations while ensuring "win-win" international ties and the perceived strategic imperatives to protect the China's "core interests."

All indications are that the Xi Jinping leadership will persist with the "core interests"-based foreign policy of the previous administration.

It looks certain that the dilemma between balancing win-win relationships and the perceived strategic imperative of protecting the territorial sovereignty of the country will continue to confront the new leadership.

We cannot yet see what program of action the new leadership is contemplating to convert their intentions into reality. The reforms in China will only progress in a phased manner, as evidenced by Xi's remarks that the "reform policy is an ongoing job, serving a long-term arduous and onerous cause which needs efforts from generation to generation."

The article was compiled by Global Times reporter Yu Jincui based on an interview with D.S.Rajan, director of Chennai Centre for China Studies in India. yujincui@globaltimes.com.cn


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