After unprecedented wide-ranging public consultations, massive revisions and even change of re-drafting authorities, the much revised law, several years in the making, was finally adopted by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress on April 24, to enter into force in 2015.
See a review of the new legislation and an interview with Cao Mingde, law professor at the China University of Political Science and Law, who participated in the drafting of the revised amendment of the Environmental Protection Law, on ChinaDialogue, an environmental organization based in London and Beijing,
The new law features a number of breakthroughs -
(a) For the first time ever, evironmental protection is accorded First Priority above economic development. Previously, the two were merely required to be co-ordinated,
(b) Major polluting companies must make the following information publicly available: main pollutants, methods of discharge, concentration and amount of emissions, excess emissions, as well as construction and operation of pollution prevention facilities. Those breaking the law will bear responsibility, along with the monitoring authorities concerned.
(c) The government is required to establish key areas cutting across administrative regions to integrate prevention and coordination systems for watershed pollution and ecological damage, as well to carry out unified planning, standards, monitoring and prevention measures.
(d) Environmental noncompliance will be subject to heavy fines on a daily basis, starting from the day after the correction is ordered,
(e) Environmental authorites are given unprecedented powers of closing down, seizure and detention of offenders.
(f) Enviromental Impact Assessments (EIAs) are extended to apply to regional targets with powers to refuse approval of any project which may result in such targets being exceeded.
(g) Public Interest litigation is allowed against offending projects, though not against monitoring authorities, enabling social organisations registered with the civil departments of governments above city level in selected areas to initiate public interest lawsuits.
One apparent Achilles heel of the new law is that local governments are in control of staff and resources of local environmental authorities. It is, however, much rumored that the Ministry of Environmental Protection will be greatly empowered, taking over environmental responsibilities from other ministries to integrate environmental management within one organisation. If this becomes a reality, the table will be truly turned on China's so-far unsuccessful battle against the nation's continuing ecological degration.
According to Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson's seminal book, "Why Nations Fail" (Profile Books Ltd, 2012), nations plagued by "extractive institutions" manipulated by vested interests historically proved to face decline or even collapse. Its conclusion points to the inevitability that Western democracies would win out in the end over autocractic regimes.
My earlier blog here posted a question comparing China and America - "Which superpower is more threatened by its “extractive elites”?
A recent book review by Michele Boldrin, David K. Levine and Salvatore Modica offers more insight into and in-depth analysis of the universality of Acemoglu's conclusions.
For example, both Napoleonic France and Germany before the Second World War registered long periods of success as nations, while some "inclusive" democracies headed towards relative decline. It begs the question whether the answer lies more in institutions favouring innovation and competitiveness, both domestic and international, rather than purely being "inclusive". It also points out that inclusive institutions could equally be plagued by "vested interests" while "extractive" institutions could evolve over time to becoming more "inclusive".
As in a debate between "democracy" and "autocracy", sometimes the truth is muddled by labels. While there is much merit in highlighting the importance of institutions, the jury is still out whether inclusive institutions are the be-all-and-end-all pre-condition to nation's success or survival, as sometimes it is made out to be. More importantly, it begs the question whether more benevolent kinds of "extractive institutions" are indeed the key to driving a nation's resources to build infrastructural capacity at least during certain stages of development of some countries, as in the case of China.
An analysis of the pros and cons of China's One-Party rule can be found here
An informative article in the South Chna Morning Post of 18 March 2014 shows Beijing's war-like determination to fight China's choking smog by accelerating the development of a new generation of hopefully much safer nuclear reactors using thorium instead of uranium. The original lead time has been ordered to be shortened from 25 to only 10 years.
This supports the latest State Council action plan to fight air pollution issued in September 2013, supported by an array of technological, administrative and other measures involving a state-driven smart-grid development program and the engagement of government, business, citizen and other stakeholders. Click here and here
Moreover, the National Energy Administration (NEA) is reported to seek to put geothermal energy on the fast track. China's geothermal energy potential is estimated at about 853 billion tonnes of standard coal, with a vast potential to replace coal in energy consumption. Click here
While the jury is still out on whether blue skies will ever return to China's cities, the above developments are perhaps promises of early twilight in the middle of the darkest night.
“How China Is Ruled - Why It's Getting Harder for Beijing to Govern” is the subject of an adaptation in Foreign Affairs (January/February, 2014) by Professor David M Lampton from his book “Following the Leader: Ruling China, From Deng Xiaoping to Xi Jinping”, University of California Press, 2014. Professor Lampton is George and Sadie Hyman Professor of China Studies and Director of SAIS-China at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. Click here
Professor Lampton highlights a sea-change in how China is governed with better-educated and more open civil society, people power with a plurality of views and interests, and the imperative of responding to, rather than suppressing, people’s expectations except the most destabilizing of forces.
This periodic sea-change was also heralded by an earlier report of the European Council for Foreign Relations (ECFR) (Mark Leonard, ed., November, 2012), epitomized by the following observations –
"China is trapped in its own success and needs to enter into a new era. After Mao’s political revolution (‘China 1.0’) and Deng Xiaoping’s economic revolution (‘China 2.0’), they are (the country is) expecting a ‘China 3.0’”. I have looked into what a China 3.0 would mean in “In face of multiple crises, China 3.0 needs to stay ahead with the times” Click here
Lampton's analysis is spot on with the key driver of change – the need to regain legitimacy in face of civil and economic plurality. The Communist Party of China (CPC) has been continually re-inventing itself to stay ahead.
To appreciate how the CPC works and how it hones its leadership, please visit "How China's leadership is tempered" here
Nevertheless, despite continual evolution, there is no sign that the CPC may contemplate eventual embrace of Western competitive multi-party democracy. The CPC does not believe that the Western model is suited to China, nor for that matter, it has always been effective in the West. Examples of government dysfunction caused by fractious party politics come to mind. Neither does Professor Lampton suggest that Western democracy is a pre-condition for preventing regime collapse
In fact, whether Western multi-party rule is necessary for China’s long-term sustainability was the subject of an earlier heated debate between Will Hutton and Martin Jacques over the latter’s controversial book “When China Rules the World”. Hutton argued that China would never be able to rule the world and would in fact eventually unravel if the country continued to resist Western democracy. On the other hand, while admitting China needs to become more liberal and enlightened, Jacques did not agree that the Western model is the only formula for China’s continuing survival, if not dominance. Click here
The Hutton/Jacques debate seems a little convoluted and confused by terminology at times. The real differences in opinions seem to boil down to the following questions –
(a) Would China eventually become at least one of the world’s dominant countries?
(b) Would a One-Party system be sustainable, and if so, how?
As for (a), I have provided an analysis In “Will China dominate the 21st century?” here
As for (b), perhaps it may be helpful to first answer the question whether "Western liberal democracy would be wrong for China". This very question took the form of a motion debate in London on 9 November 2012 sponsored by Intelligence Squared, a premier forum for debate and intelligent discussion. In the context of this question, the pros and cons of (b) are addressed at some length in my piece “China may not need to abandon one-party rule any time soon?”here
Coming back to Professor Lampton’s article in Foreign Affairs, governing a country the size of a continent with a population numbering a fifth of mankind has never been easy. Under Mao, it was the huge challenge of feeding so many mouths in face of unfriendly and vastly superior superpowers. Under Deng, it was the herculean task of unleashing the productivity of a behemoth steeped in abject poverty and bureaucracy. Under Xi, it is the harnessing a rising tide of civil and economic aspirations to achieve China’s Renaissance amidst growing global uneasiness with China’s ascendance.
How China rises to her destiny and how the world responds to China will not be just a matter for China and her people, but as Napoleon once said, “When China wakes, she will shake the world.”
With a fast-changing China, questions are regularly being asked about what appeared to be growing tension between President Xi and “”hard-line Communists”. Click here Or between the Chinese Communist Party and the PLA. Click here Are these tensions real? And are they overstated or understated? Does rising Chinese power raise the likelihood of Chinese military action or lower it?
These are great questions. They serve to illustrate how much some Western observers still view China's Communist Party in terms of Mao and Tiananmen Square.
Even as the Party’s name remains unchanged, decades of water has passed under the bridge. If Maoist ideological struggles had persisted and if the PLA should continue to dictate to the Party, the country would have long unraveled, let alone delivering spectacular growth all these years with a much more open and law-based society.
Successive independent PEW public opinion surveys show that despite warts and all, the vast majority of the Chinese people remain largely satisfied with the direction the country has been taking. While there is rising discontent with inequality, corruption and pollution, there is hardly any widely-based support for regime change. Click here
The Party's legitimacy no longer rests on the barrels of a gun, nor just its ability to deliver economic growth. China has been churning out some 7 million university graduates a year. By 2020, China will have 195 million graduates, more than America's current workforce. The old-styled Communist rule by control and repression no longer works. Social harmony, quality of life, justice and equality are now as essential to political survival as economic growth, if not more so.
It is necessary to appreciate how the Communist Party works. It is no longer enough to rely only on political patronage without a credible track record through the bottom ranks. Indeed, at the highest level, no Chinese leader is parachuted from the top without a life-long trial. Unlike political winners in Western democracies, China's top leaders now are well-tried and highly capable administrators, the product of a fiercely competitive meritocratic system. Moreover, after President Jiang Zemin, a smoother system of leadership transition has been put in place. Regardless of merit or political clout, no one can become a member of the top leadership (the Politburo's Standing Committee) if at the time of entry, he or she reaches 68 years of age.
President Xi himself is a highly-connected ""princeling", but that is hardly a sufficient qualification. Don't forget that his predecessor Hu Jiantao, and previous Premier Wen Jiabao had humble beginnings. So has the new Premier Li Keqiang. Like his competitors, Xi had to prove his worth through the ranks. The Party has recently launched a campaign, involving diplomats abroad, to explain how a Chinese leader like Xi has been "tempered"". The following may serve as a taster. Click here
Yes, there are "factions" or "networks" of different career paths and policy leanings. But nearly all have tasted the bitter fruit of the Communist Party's painful past. While within the Party and its think-tanks, there is sometimes heated debate about how to address the threat of social division and corruption, there is no mileage in turning the clock back to ideological or political struggles. Perhaps (jokingly) not unlike the white smoke from the Sistine Chapel, the final selection of a Chinese top leader is derived from years of meritocratic assessments winning the support of a synod of cardinals who themselves have risen from the ranks.
However, after decades of breakneck economic growth, cracks are appearing in the Party edifice. Former Premier Wen famously said that China's development has become "unstable, unbalanced, uncoordinated and unsustainable" (March, 2007). The people are increasingly restless with pollution, consumer safety, inequality and corruption. Click here Energy-and-labor intensive growth is coming to a dead end. That's why after heated internal debates and taking expert advice, not least from the World Bank, Xi has launched a huge package of unprecedented reforms at the Party's latest Third Plenum. It is hoped that these may transform the nation closer to a China Dream of a higher-income nation by 2030. Click here
Indeed, social discontent is posing an existential threat to the Party's and the nation's very survival. Both Xi and his outgoing predecessor did not mince words in sounding this dire warning. It is reported that Alexis de Tocqueville's "The Ancien Regime and the (French) Revolution" (first published 1856) had done the rounds amongst China's top leaders. This has inspired a nostalgic call to Mao's early revolutionary ideal where the Party was clean and truly worked for the people. In enlightened intellectual debate within the party, the original Paris Commune is considered a form of local democracy and Mao’s revolutionary “mass line” as embracing the will of the “grass roots” against social injustice.This is very much part of Xi's Dream of a stronger, prosperous, equitable and sustainable China. Click here So, talking about political rift with hardliners within the Party seems to lose the wood for the trees.
However, the China Dream also encompass a militarily stronger China, able to defend her national interests, of which territorial integrity, a historical baggage, and energy security, a present-day threat, remain paramount. This also responds to the country's rising pride and nationalism. As China's economic power and global outreach grow, it is only natural for China to double up her military modernization to safeguard very long borders and critical maritime interests, complicated by disputed islands, huge reserves of natural resources, and America’s Pivot to Asia..
There is also China's grand prize - Taiwan. Nevertheless, the island is becoming more and more integrated with Mainland China economically, socially and culturally. Zbigniew Brzezinski, a doyen of American foreign policy, outlines how America should try to accommodate China's growing regional clout, including the Taiwan question, in order to balance a ""Complex East"". (Strategic Vision, America and the Crisis of Global Power, Basic Books, New York, 2012) Click here
The upshot is that China needs a peaceful and harmonious domestic and global environment to build a prosperous, equitable and sustainable nation by 2030. Unless China is first fired upon, fighting a war of uncertain escalations would risk dashing the China Dream completely. Moreover, time is on China's side.
Nevertheless, the China Dream entails what President Xi refers to as new "Great Power" relations with the United States, as was the theme of Xi's initial tete a tete with Obama at Sunnylands. Click here These aim to avoid history repeating itself that great power transitions inevitably ended up in wars.
However, poked by increasingly confrontational tactics of Japan shielded by an American defense treaty, Xi opted to start from a position of strength by announcing her own Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ). The curtain has now been raised on how ""Great Power" relations may play out. None of the parties wants a war, but none can afford to back down. The situation needs careful management including cooling-off and crisis management mechanisms, plus top-level hotlines. Click here
"Western liberal democracy would be wrong for China" was a motion debate in London on 9 November 2012 sponsored by Intelligence Squared, a premier forum for debate and intelligent discussion.Click here
The debate was timely. A slowing and increasingly protest-prone China with a dwindling labour pool was at a crossroads pending a new leadership, notwithstanding impressive economic rise within three and a half decades. Nevertheless, according to successive PEW survey findings, despite a plethora of ills, the majority of the Chinese people remain generally satisfied with the way the country is progressing. Few demand regime change. This contrasts with sputtering economies in the West with political gridlock and rising social discontent, liberal democracy notwithstanding.
The debate managed to thrash out most of the issues, that freedom and democracy are universal values, that much of China’s growth is inequitable, and that behind the façade of impressive growth lies a host of ugly repression, corruption, widening inequalities, vested interests, and ecological degradation.
The outcome of the debate was not unexpected, considering how informed the audience really was about the pros and cons of China’s development model. It implied that a one-party system must be universally bad and the sooner it is given up, the better.
However, the following arguments beg to be answered -
(a) Would multi-party liberal democracy have delivered for China at least similar outcomes in terms of economic and social development, lifting as many people out of poverty in as short a time? The example of India may be instructive.
(b) Would elections have succeeded in maintaining national unity for a country as vast and diverse as China? Recent cases of Egypt, Thailand, and yes, even the United States, do not seem to inspire confidence.The Economist (The United States of Ameoba, 7 December, 2013) graphically shows here how America's politics have become morbidly polarised. Elsewhere, there seem to be signs of fatigue, if not failure, of multi-party democracy.
(c) Multi-party or single-party systems all end up in one government. The proof of the system must be its ability to deliver the goods for most of the people. History seems to suggest that a one-party state does not necessarily do worse. If anything, an enlightened one-party system seems to be better equipped to achieve results as it doesn't have to worry about the next election. It is not without reason that Thomas Friedman, influential author and New York Times columnist, laments in his popular book, Hot, Flat and Crowded (Penguin Books, 2009) that America should become "China for a day (but not for two)" (Part V, Chapter 18).
(d) While western liberal democracies reward successful politicians, the current Chinese party system seems to select more able leaders through competitive meritocracy built over an entire career, political infighting notwithstanding. See here how the Communist Party now works.
(e) According to United Nations Human Development Indices, China's model outperformed many democratic developing countries in virtually all indicators including life expectancy, economic well-being, law and order, health, and education, except, by definition, civil and political rights (China Modernizes, Randall Peerenboom, Oxford University Press, 2007). There is no lack of examples to show that, for certain developing countries, democracies have failed where benign authoritarianism has succeeded.
(f) The Intelligence Squared debate seems to be fixated at Tiananmen Square 1989. However, a lot of water has past under the bridge. To maintain stability, the Party must now continually earn the trust and support of the people. Their aspirations are becoming more diverse and liberal with a rapidly rising and better-educated middle-class. This means that the Party has to keep breast with the times to stay relevant. One can see why such bold reforms as unveiled at the Party’s latest Third Plenum are now necessary. Click here If only gradually, such reforms embrace certain norms of human dignity, rule of law, judiciary independence, and civil society. These norms are not the prerogatives of liberal democracy. Provided a one-party state is able to respond to people’s rising aspirations, co-option of liberal norms may enhance its legitimacy without multi-party politics.
(g) China’s ancient dynasties offer plenty of lessons in governance. The “mandate of heaven” was forfeited where a ruler failed to connect with the people, where the dynasty became short-lived. On the other hand, certain dynasties prospered and proved long-lasting, such as the glorious Tang dynasty (618-907 A.D.), when the ruler and the ruled enjoyed long periods of stability, prosperity and national strength. Naturally, we are way past dynastic times. But the analogy of the legitimacy of ability to connect with the people remains valid.
(h) This is not to say that China's model is without faults and serious drawbacks. Previous Premier Wan Jiabao famously said that China's development is ""unstable, unbalanced, un-coordinated and unsustainable" Nor is this to say that China's model is the ideal solution. China refuses to tout her development as any model for anyone, as each country's circumstances are different and each stage of development demands different approaches. Above all, China does not believe in any one-size-fits-all model that suits all countries at all times, including China herself.
I was conscious of the risk of my article being accused of political propaganda. The Western mind can hardly accept that a one-party state has anything positive to commend itself at any time. I hope to raise the possibility, if only for unbiased debate, whether and how an enlightened One-Party state may well suit a stage of development of a vast country like China better than multi-party democracy, at least for now. Indeed, provided the Party continues to change with the times, as it has vowed to do, it begs the questsion whether China may not need to abandon one-party rule any time soon.
Following the release of the Third Plenum’s 60-point decisions here there is now less disbelief that the Xi leadership really wanted fundamental reforms. The question is to what extent these reforms may deliver a substantially transformed China by 2020.
Much recent scepticism misses how the Communist Party collectively works. There was considerable political gestation leading up to Xi’s installation as President. Any serious differences in direction had largely been ironed out. The Bo Xilai affair helped to concentrate the mind. There is now consensus in the top leadership that without urgent systemic reform, the whole Party boat would sink.
This reality was borne out in an earlier 468-page World Bank Report co-authored with the State Council’s Development Research Centre. The report, “China 2030: Building a Modern, Harmonious, and Creative High-Income Society” Click here recognizes that the country’s 30-year-old growth model has now reached a dead-end. Drastic structural changes are imperative to transit to a higher-income economy. The report was unveiled and discussed at a high-level national conference in February 2012 hosted by Li Keqiang as Executive Vice Premier. Many recommendations of the report are now embodied in the final decisions of the Third Plenum. Let’s now consider their practicability and impact.
First, modification to the One Child Policy is likely to ameliorate, if not immediately reverse, China’s looming aging demographics. Subsequent modification, perhaps even abolition, of the Policy cannot be ruled out. This should inject more young blood to enhance China’s productivity drive towards innovation and skilled services. This is supported by findings Click herethat China now tops the world in filings of patents, trademarks and industrial designs. The Royal Society also predicts that China is likely to overtake the United States in the number of scientific citations this year Click here.
Second, as long-expected, the “hukou” (household registration) system will be reformed. This has created a massive urban under-class of rural migrant workers deprived of any social protection. To help break down the inequitable social divide is a bold rural land reform. This will enable peasants to mortgage, rent or transfer their land, of which they have so far enjoyed only user rights. The Plenum decisions also pledge to ensure a universal, if basic, access to healthcare, old-age pension and education. These measures will help and financially empower the massive number of rural migrants to integrate into the urban social fabric. They will in due course become part of a burgeoning middle class of consumers to help balance the economy’s over dependence on investment and exports.
Third, it is easy to be confused by the opening statement that “public ownership” would remain the “main body of China’s economy” here . While some of China’s giant state-owned enterprises have risen to the world’s top league by market capitalization, their productivity and global competitiveness leave a lot to be desired. Included changes are mixed ownership between public and private capital, transformation into state-owned investment companies (similar to Singapore’s Temasek), increasing state-owned sector’s tribute from 15% to 30% by 2020 for improving people’s livelihood, freeing up the pricing of water, electricity, oil, gas, transport and telecommunications, and allowing the formation of private banks. As noted in the Financial Times here, state-owned enterprises’ monopolistic privileges will be gradually “chipped away”.
Fourth, the Plenum decided to open further the finance, education, culture and medical sectors, while easing investment restrictions for nursery, pension, architecture, design, accounting, trade, logistics, and e-commerce. This is to be supported by free trade zones and investment facilitation policies. The RMB, the Chinese yuan, is to become a globally-traded currency by 2015 and to achieve capital account convertibility by 2020. This will be accompanied by interest rate liberalization. If realized, this is likely to make the RMB the world’s most traded currency. This is no surprise as China is the largest trading partner of 126 countries compared with 76 in the case of the United States. Six of the world’s top eight container ports are located on China’s eastern seaboard, a testimony to China’s pivotal position as the centre of the global trading and logistics hub. Indeed, there are already more currencies moving in tandem with the RMB instead of the dollar. Click here
Fifth, there is a consistent imperative to improve governance, including the enhancement of judiciary independence in lower courts by unifying authority over their staff and property at the provincial level, upholding the Constitution, protecting ethnic minorities’ rights, enhancing the power of people’s congresses (China’s parliaments) at all levels, promoting “consultative” and “grass-root” democracy including elections, abolishing the “labour re-education” system, reducing death penalty charges, empowering the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection in fighting corruption, reining in local government finances, and promoting the role of public monitoring and grass-root social organizations.
Sixth, a whole section of the Plenum’s decisions is devoted to the development of an “ecological civilization”. This features the strictest possible rules to enhance the conservation of natural resources, holding officials to account for a natural resources balance sheet, enforcing a polluter-pay system, and promoting the use of environmental tax, pricing and emission trading systems. This should help to achieve ambitious green energy targets tabled in the Chinese Academy of Science’s Roadmap to 2050 *, where fossil fuel usage is to decline from 92.7 % of total in 2007 to 45%, on par with renewable fuels rising from 6.5% to 45% by 2050, leaving 10% to be met by rising use of nuclear energy.
Like Deng Xiaoping’s initial Open Door Policy in 1978, what is being unleashed is a torrent of productivity of the nation’s vast human capital. The rural masses, nearly half of China’s 1.3 billion souls, will be financially and institutionally empowered to pursue their urban dreams. The expected total of 195 million university graduates by 2020, expected to outnumber the entire workforce of the United States, will have more room to play in both the state and the private sectors. The reform should enhance quality, innovation, market efficiency, governance, transparency, equity, social participation, and ecological sustainability, improving the Party’s legitimacy and political stability.
It would be ideal, as the Party has avowed to achieve, that entrenched ties are loosened between bureaucracy and enterprise, and power is put “under the sun” and “inside the cage of law". Should the Party be able to accomplish this Herculean task, a new torrent of productivity and economic dynamism may be unleasshed to carry the Party boat to a new milestone.
The test of the pudding, however, remains in the eating. It is likely that the boat ride would be much less smooth as described in the famous Chinese poem ** by renowned Tang Dynasty poet, Li Bai. Disturbing chatter may arise on both banks of the river while treacherous rocks in the water may pervert the torrent of productivity.
Nevertheless, China remains a one-party state noted for executive efficiency. Moreover, the whole reform package, ambitious as it is, is no iconoclasm, let alone regime change. Vested interests are not so much broken but co-opted and channelled into a new direction. Party secretaries will in future be judged not so much on GDP growth as on other "balance sheets" of local financial and ecological health. It is to be hoped that when the political mind is seized, an unstoppable momentum would be created to push the boat to its desired destination sooner than people think.
Amid sunrise aurora, White Emperor City, fare thee well! Across a thousand miles to Jiangling in a day! Chattering cliff monkeys on both banks, no end to their bawling. A light heart and boat are leaving all the serried mountains behind.
(A translation of a poem by Li Bai (701-762 CE), Tang Dynasty)
So asks an article here in The Financial Times Magazine on 20 September, 2013. This question has been posed a number of times before. But
is this time different - when China really stands at a crossroads, a historical
inflexion point of China's Communist Party (CPC)?
The answer is undoubtedly yes, this time is very different. Critical corruption and
inequalities are sapping the credibility and any legitimacy of the Party. This
happens at a time when the country is fast changing tack, towards a nation of
consumers and more independently-minded middle class. China is churning out
some 7 million university graduates a year. By 2030, China will have 200
million of them, more than the current entire workforce of the United States.
The current mode of governance is near its sell-by date.
Against this foreboding mood of uncertainty are the
following realities -
(a) While social unrest and cynicism are rising, there is no
prevailing demand for regime change. Indeed, in the absence of any credible
alternative regime that works, the common sentiments tend to side with
"the devil you know". Besides, many are really proud of what the
country has so far managed to achieve, against all odds, in so short a time.
Successive longitudinal PEW Global Attitudes Surveys in China shows that the
vast majority of the Chinese people remain generally satisfied with the Chinese
government. This contrasts with the less satisfactory PEW ratings in a number
of leading democracies.
(b) Recent explosive revelations, notably the Bo Xilai
affair, have focused the Party's collective mind as its very survival is at
stake. All factions and stakeholders in the highest echelons of the Party are
now rallying behind President Xi to purge the Party of corruption and
self-aggrandizement. Even bigger tigers than Bo are now rumored to be
investigated. A sleuth of major structural, if not political, reforms, such the
reform of State-Owned Enterprises and of the household registration system
(hukou) which marginalizes the mass of migrant workers, are expected to be
unveiled at the forthcoming Party Plenum in November. If all goes out, this
should stand the Party in better stead.
(c) Although there are non-Communist political parties
enshrined in China's Constitution, these, such as the Revolutionary Committee
of the Kuomintang, the China Democratic League and the China Democratic
National Construction Association, are miniscule organs with scant following.
They cannot and have no wish to have any mandate to challenge the One-Party
rule. Indeed, there is a lot of debate (within Party think-tanks such as the
Party School) whether one-Party rules are ipso facto unstable. There are
examples of inherently unstable countries with different political parties
contesting to win elections. Likewise, there are those countries which have become
a paragon of success in terms of people's well-being and national advancement
(such as Singapore) where there is no prize guessing whether the same
overwhelming Party will continue to hold sway.
Nevertheless, while China is not expected to copy Western
models, the country will have to redouble her efforts to reform both
economically, socially and politically. President Xi said as much at the start
of the latest 18th Party Congress. Indeed, he used extreme language to describe
the urgency "on pain of demise of the country and the Party"".
The tasks ahead are herculean and the road is likely to be
bumpy. See my earlier analyses -"Is China Up to the Task" here and "Quest for the China Dream"
Let's keep our fingers crossed for the coming Party Plenum