The above is a February 2017 Report prepared by a Task Force for the Asia Society’s Center on US-China Relationsand the University of California San Diego’s 21st Century China Center.
Co-chaired by Orville Shell (Wealth and Power, China’s Long March to the 21st Century) and Elizabeth Economy, director for Asia Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, the Task Force comprises a host of distinguished international relations and China experts including Thomas Christensen (The China Challenge: Shaping the Choices of a Rising Power), and David Shambaugh (China’s Future), with discussants such as Jeffrey Bader, Senior Fellow at Brookings Institution, and David Lampton, Professor and director of China Studies at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.
The Report emphasizes the importance of America's network of alliances and partnerships and its robust set of multilateral institutions. It advocates that the United States should engage China from a position of strength, garnishing China's help in countering North Korea, brokering sound agreements for fairer trade and promoting compliance with international law and norms. In particular, it recognizes US national interest to maintain an active presence in the Asia-Pacific region and to strive, if possible, for stable and mutually beneficial relations with China.
The Report first and foremost flags up the overriding importance of maintaining the One China Policy, which has best served American national interests and those of Taiwan and the region for decades.
The Report lists six most immediate and urgent priorities - :
Work with China to halt North Korea’s nuclear and missile program
Reaffirm US commitments to Asia
Deploy effective tools to address the lack of reciprocity in US trade and investment relations with China
Intensify efforts to encourage a principled, rules-based approach to the management and settlement of Asia-Pacific maritime disputes
Respond to Chinese civil society policies that harm US organizations, companies, individuals, and the broader relationship
Sustain and broaden US-China collaboration on global climate change.
The Report also outlines 10 broad and long-term issues which need to be properly managed -
Energy and climate change
Asia-Pacific regional security
North Korean nuclear threat
Taiwan and Hong Kong
Defense and military relations
Trade and investment relations
Overall, the Report doesn't amount to a major departure from the existing strategy, with a more robust approach to attain broadly similar objectives. Perhaps a new emphasis is to secure a quid pro quo treatment of American civil society organizations in China, including American equivalents to China's Confucius Institutes in the United States. This underscores the importance of American soft-power in forging better China relations amenable to US national interest.
The above Paper dated October 2016 under the Brookings Institution's Order from Chaos Project - Foreign Policy in a Troubled World, is jointly prepared by Philippe Le Corre, visiting fellow at the Center on the United States and Europe and Jonathan Pollack, senior fellow in the John L. Thornton China Center, both at Brookings.
The Paper's thrust is informed by the following extract -
"China’s increasing economic and financial weight touches upon all major issues in the global economy. The advanced industrial states therefore need to fully assess China’s economic policies and practices and how they could affect the future order. These issues range from the rules governing trade, investment, and finance; addressing major imbalances in trade relations; cybersecurity; maritime security; climate change; terrorism; environmental degradation; global poverty alleviation; the role of nongovernmental organizations; the evolution of civil society; and intellectual property rights, to name some of the more important areas.
Moreover, these issues concern the future of governance within China as much as governance between China and the outside world. In this paper, we explore how Europe and the United States might move toward more complementary conceptions of their respective relationships with China.
Though there are areas of commonality between Europe and the United States, their separate identities and interests also reveal significant differences, if not outright divergence. EU-wide and country-specific engagement with China have accelerated dramatically over the past decade, underscoring the challenge of coordinating EU and U.S. policy approaches. Sustainment of the global economic order in the absence of China’s full commitment to existing practices and norms would prove very difficult, especially if China is intent on developing alternative concepts of global governance.
The United States and Europe thus face a common strategic task. Both must ensure that China’s increasing power does not undermine the principles and policies that have enabled unparalleled economic prosperity across multiple decades. They must reaffirm a shared commitment to this institutional framework, while enabling China to emerge a full-fledged participant in the global economy."
Differences of opinion and emphases between the United States and Europe notwithstanding, the Paper recommends a number of China-related priority areas for US-EU coordination, including Investment, Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), One Belt, One Road (OBOR), Rule-based International Order, Climate Change and Civil Society.
The Heading belongs to a Brookings Institution Foreign Policy Program "Order from Chaos Project" Asian Working Group Paper No. 2 (February, 2016), authored by Jeffrey A Bader, Brookings Senior Fellow affiliated with the John L. Thornton China Center.
The Project sets out to examine dynamics that uphold or challenge the world order, define US interests in re-vitalizing a rule-based liberal international order, and suggest policy recommendations in time for the next US Presidency. The Working Paper explains President Xi's world view and his perceived more assertive stance in the global order partly as a product of China's development trajectory since the founding of the People's Republic of China.
Under Chairman Mao, the West-dominated world order was rejected as imperialist, oppressive of the weak and hence illegitimate. China was bent on exporting Communism but otherwise preferred to be left alone in "splendid isolation" to pursue her own development under Communist ideology.
Under Deng Xiaoping, China opened up to and joined the world system and its institutions, including the United Nations, the World Trade Organization, and the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Forum. Even the US-led North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) was accepted as a beneficial balancer against an aggressive Soviet Union. In international relations, however, Deng's mantra was "tao guang yang hui" 韬光养晦, which translates into "“develop capabilities while keeping a low profile".
This mantra was continued during the administrations of Deng's successors - President Jiang Zemin and President Hu Jintao. The US-led international system was largely embraced by China which benefited from it hugely. Where certain norms were perceived to be in conflict with China's own perspectives, China was vocal but lacked the comprehensive power to project her own global interests and ideas effectively.
President Xi inherited a China much more powerful economically, financially and militarily. He "emerged from the experiences of privilege and suffering with a firm faith in the necessity of a strong Communist Party to govern China, an aversion to chaos and social instability, a commitment to China’s economic growth based on acceptance of the role of markets, and demand for respect for China internationally". "The new ideas of the Xi era reflect massive changes in China’s place in the international system, its economic, political, and military strength, and China’s expectation that the international system would and should accommodate this transformed China." Xi's vision is for the nation's global renaissance encapsulated in his "China Dream."
The author makes the point that it would be surprising if a transformed global power doesn't seek a larger role in the world system of which it forms such an integral part. Indeed, there is broad consensus that China should now be allowed a larger role as "responsible stakeholder" both as "operator" and as a "rule-writer".
The author recognizes that at the same time, China is facing a mountain of unprecedented challenges at home and abroad. This necessitated a transformed and powerful Party to navigate and push through critical reforms with a full command of the domestic leverages of power. This echoes the theme of an earlier prescient report of the European Council for Foreign Relations (ECFR) (Mark Leonard, ed., November, 2012). This argued that China is trapped in its own success and needs to enter into a transformative era. Click here
The author's conclusion is that China under Xi and beyond is likely to remain committed to the existing market and rule-based international system, yet prepared to challenge, modify, or deviate from it whenever it doesn't suit China's own development imperatives. He debunks popular suspicions that China is prone to imposing a Monroe Doctrine trying to exclude US influence from the Asia-Pacific or exercising coercion on China's weaker neighbors in support of a classically-Chinese tributary system. Both concepts, according to the author, are outdated and unsuited to an inter-dependent and inter-connected world in the 21st century. Nor would they support China's long-term development goals.
In short, according to the author, China is not, at least for now, a revisionist power. Nevertheless, he opines that the jury is still out on how China treats her weaker neighbors as her global power expands over time.
China has opened 2016 with another roaster-coaster market crash. Continuing capital outflow anticipates RMB’s perceived downward slide and risks of slowing growth under the “New Normal”. Although a Goldman Sachs Investment Strategy Group report Download 2016OutlookLastInningsthinks a hard-landing is a negligible probability, growth in 2016 is forecast to range between 5.8% to 6.8%, testing Premier Li Keqiang’s reportedly-suggested 6.5% as the required minimum.
Environmentally, the signs have not been propitious. Beijing sounded the highest possible “red-alert” in December as the city was repeatedly choked by smog.
China’s neighbourhood remains problematic. A landed test flight on reclaimed land in the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea further rattled the United States and its allies. Click here
However, fixating on China’s travails misses the point. Indeed, these may be considered birth pangs as a new China struggles to be born. Contradictions abound, reminiscent of Charles Dickens' "It's the best of times. It's the worst of times." The old is withering away while the new is sprung upon the unwary across a wide front. Click here
According to Natixis, a French corporate and investment bank, the die is cast for a series of tectonic shifts towards a new China. With the RMB having appreciated by some 50% since 2005, exports such as office machines, footwear, textiles and clothing are plummeting. However, a more expensive RMB will boost the consumer power of a rapidly- expanding urban population. 81 million more urbanites will be added by 2020, pushing the urbanization rate from 54.8% to 60%. Dynamic consumption growth is expected in leisure and other quality-of-life products and services. Industry is likely to be driven more by research-based innovation, particularly in the internet, semi-conductor, robotics, and nuclear energy sectors. Meanwhile, China is becoming a more proactive and outward-looking global player. Backed by new financial institutions like the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank, China’s One Belt, One Road trans-continental initiative is beginning to take shape.
According to Kevin Rudd, president of the Asia Society Policy Institute in New York, China in 2016 will be preoccupied with preparations for a new leadership team, to be unveiled in the 19th Party Congress in 2017. Apart from President Xi and Premier Li Keqiang, the rest of the current Politburo Standing Committee Members will have reached retirement age. A proactive and assertive foreign policy is expected to continue in face of Taiwan’s changing political ecology and developments in the South China Sea. Click here
2016 will be a “ground-breaking” year for China to realize the "two-centenary" ambitions. These are to become (a) a moderately well-off country by 2021, the 100th anniversary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) and (b) "a modern socialist country that is prosperous, strong, democratic, culturally advanced and harmonious" by 2049, the 100th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China (PRC). The first aim would be crucial to the second. Click here
Three key "hard-battle" grounds are highlighted. The first is economic restructuring. Ahead of the much-awaited March release of the 13th Five Year Plan (2016-20), Beijing's Central Economic Work Conference has unveiled an economic blueprint, focusing, for the first time, on "supply-side reform". The required structural adjustment includes de-stocking of overcapacity, state-owned enterprise reform, currency and interest rate liberalization, debt and deflation management, old-age healthcare and a greener and more sustainable economy. On the cards are subsidized sales of empty housing to migrant workers and innovative reforms to enhance productivity in finance, natural resources, manpower, equipment and technologies. Click here
Another "hard battle" ground is the eradication of poverty. Notwithstanding rising affluence, some 250 million Chinese (18% of the population) still subsist on less than $2 dollars a day. Gross economic inequality remains a threat to the CPC's legitimacy as a governing Party.
The third "hard battle" ground is military transformation. This aims to reduce the size of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) by 300,000 strong and to revamp the entire operational and strategic command structures spanning the Military Commission, PLA regions and strategic units. It is designed to shape capabilities to fight and win warfare in the 21st century, including information and space warfare . Central to this "hard battle" is the ongoing anti-corruption campaign covering the military.
These mammoth tasks presage a struggling transition in 2016 as the Chinese juggernaut’s about-turn continues to make waves in economic, social, financial and geopolitical spheres.
Perhaps the most challenging transition is towards a freer, more open and just society where the rule of law, rather than "rule by law", will be upheld. One of the key essentials is to subject the Party to check and balance held to public account. A crucial component is an autonomous or "independent" judiciary. Already, measures are in hand to transfer the power of judicial appointments to the provincial level. There are also moves to introduce a system of "circuit courts". Huge problems remain, including the lack of professional judges and the whole bureaucratic culture of a one-Party state.
Meanwhile, a new domain of opportunities is appearing on the micro-economic and business horizon, including innovative manufacturing, agricultural imports, wealth management services, green and quality-of-life businesses, movie entertainment, both online and offline, and football, according to a McKinsey report.
Following the Paris COP21 Climate Summit, dynamics are in place which augur well for a more ecologically-balanced China. A new Air Pollution Prevention and Control Law came into effect on 1st January. This has incorporated planning mechanisms in the US State Implementation Plan and the UK’s Local Air Quality Management program. Laggard cities are now held accountable for targets with public inputs and monitoring. Stringent measures are being introduced to curb coal usage, including caps and coal-free zones. While lip-service and slack enforcement remain huge obstacles, the Environmental Protection Law effective 1st January 2015 mandates accumulative fines and holds local governments to account. Indeed, party secretaries’ career credentials are being judged on how well they perform in helping to create a more harmonious and greener China. Click here and here
How China evolves is bound to modify the world order, for better or worse. As Henry Kissinger observes*, history is to be discovered, not declared. Indeed, China’s transition in 2016 and beyond opens up a whole new vista of Olympian competition and win-win partnership in helping shape a Rising China. As cautioned by President Xi Jinping, misgivings notwithstanding**, the "Thucydides Trap" engulfing rival great powers doesn’t have to be sprung.
China 2016 is likely to be characterized by a host of contradictions, perhaps best described by Charles Dickens' "It's the best of times. It's the worst of times." The old is withering away while the new is sprung upon the unwary.
A slowing China with a roller-coaster stock market appears now the New Normal. Notwithstanding recurrent predictions of a hard-landing, if not total collapse, Goldman Sachs January 2016 Investment Strategy Group Report maintains a sober assessment. Growth in 2016 is expected in the range of 5.8% to 6.8%. But a hard-landing is considered a negligible probability. Download 2016OutlookLastInnings
Kevin Rudd, 26th Prime Minister of Australia and president of the Asia Society Policy Institute in New York, writes in the Time Magazine online (21 December, 2015) offering his read on China's priorities in 2016.
Meanwhile, ahead of the much-awaited March release of the 13th Five Year Plan (2016-20), Beijing's Central Economic Work Conference has unveiled an economic blueprint for the coming year, focusing, for the first time, on "supply-side reform". This translates into streamlining bureaucracy and eliminating excess capacity e.g. through subsidized sales of empty housing to migrant workers from rural areas. It also means structural reforms to enhance productivity in areas including finance and resources such as land and materials as well as manpower, equipment and technologies.
Economic restructuring is one of the three key "hard-battle" grounds (for which 2016 will be a "ground-breaking year") to realize China's "two-centenary" ambitions. These are - (a) to become a moderately well-off country by 2021, the 100th anniversary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) and (b) to become "a modern socialist country that is prosperous, strong, democratic, culturally advanced and harmonious", by 2049, the 100th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China (PRC). The first aim would be crucial to the achievement of the second. Click here
Another "hard battle" ground is the eradication of poverty. Notwithstanding China's breakneck economic growth and rapid income rises, some 250 million Chinese (or 18% of the population) still subsist with less than $2 dollars a day. Gross economic inequality remains a threat to the CPC's legitmacy as a governing Party.
The third "hard battle" ground is military transformation. Apart from reducing the size of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) by 300,000 strong, this aims to completely modernize the entire military forces, streamlining the strategic command and operational structures between the Military Commission, military regions and strategic military units, and shaping the military's capabilities to fight and win warfare in the 21st century, including information and space warfare. Central to this "hard battle" is the ongoing anti-corruption campaign covering the military.
2016 is likely to witness a struggling transition to a New China. The defining dynamics and data are expounded upon in an in-depth report by The Beijing Axis - The China Compass- in October 2015. However, this reportomits coverage of perhaps the most critical area of China's transition, that towards a freer, more open and just society where the rule of law, rather than mere "rule by law", is upheld. One of the key essentials, apart from a Party subject to check and balance held to public account, is a more autonomous, or "independent" judiciary.
Suffice to say that the Party is alive to this challenge. Measures have been introduced to transfer the power of judicial appointments to the provincial level. There are also moves to introduce a system of "circuit courts". Huge problems remain, including the lack of professional judges. Nevertheless, a step forward, however limited, is far better than standing still, let alone rolling backwards.
On the micro-economics and business side, a report by Gordon Orr, director emeritus of McKinsey, What might happen to China in 2016, expounds on the socioeconomic dynamics such as slower growth, re-centralization, fewer jobs, quality of life goals, greener economy, wealth management, innovative manufacturing, massive agricultural imports, spread of satellite towns, explosive growth in movie entertainment, both online and offline, and interestingly, football.
However 2016 may turn out for China, it is unlikely to be anything but eventful.
According to the online version of the People's Daily, Click here, China has rolled out a road map to judicial and social reform, with a timetable and verifiable targets.
The 48 reform measures are divided into three categories: litigation reform to prioritize trials, letting judges assume lifelong responsibility for cases they handle and holding them accountable for any miscarriages of justice; jury reform and public supervision reform.
A strong team of legal personnel will be fostered, including improving the professional threshold and encouraging exchanges between legal practitioners and researchers.
According to the timetable, reforms already initiated should achieve "greater progress within this year," such as cross-regional courts and procuratorate, as well as circuit courts.
Other reforms are expected to start and register initial progress by the end of this year such as setting up a system to record and report any officials' meddling in legal affairs.
More complex reform measures are to be studied, debated and launched in the future.
Hong Kong's Chinese press and the BBC (Chinese online version) reported that the Communist Youth League is trying to recruit over 10 million volunteer young netizens by the end of June from universities and other sectors across the country. The idea is to nurture more positive energy on the internet and to balance against the spread of biased or false information and ideas.
Apart from some sporadic reporting here and there, it is perhaps surprising that this bombshell has not created a storm in the international press. It is only too easy for it to be seized upon as yet another example that President Xi is clamping down on dissent and as evidence that he wants to be Mao. Click here
At the outset, the growing influence of the internet in shaping hearts and minds in China can no longer be treated lightly. SeeSocial Media Activism: All the Rage in China, a blog of the China Policy Institute of Nottingham University. The following extract is instructive -
"For instance, QQ, the leading instant-messaging service across PC and smartphone platforms, now boasts over 800 million active user accounts. Sina Weibo, China’s most popular microblogging platform, has an active user base of over 280 million and is being accessed by 76 million individuals on an average day. Weixin, the fast-rising smartphone-based text and voice messaging social networking service, reaches over 600 million users, 100 million of whom are outside of China. The magnitude of the network size poses an enormous challenge for state censors, and makes it possible for various contentious activities to exist and thrive across Chinese network space".
Another blogThe Reawakening Rebelliousness of Chinese Youthshows how much more independently-minded China's youths have now become.
China's national mouthpiece China Daily hastened to clarified that -
"the increasing number of critical appreciations that netizens have been coming up with shows that they are paying greater attention to public affairs and have higher expectations of social progress. Their increasing numbers have made netizens an important part of public supervision over government work."
"Therefore, there is no need to worry about their straightforward views and criticisms. The praise and criticism as long as they abide by law, both pass on positive energy in the increasingly plural society."
Nevertheless, Beijing has seen fit to recruit over 10 million young "good" netizens quickly so as to ensure that China's cyberspace is at least not dominated by what is perceived as negative energy.
The universal suffrage controversy highlights the serious inherent contradictions of One Country Two Systems. Hong Kong with its distinctly diffferent identity, core values, and aspirations has to come to grips with the imperatives of its sovereign authority. While we treasure all the privileges of the Two Systems, let's not forget that we are part of the One Country which is a One-Party State. There are no precedents anywhere any time in history.
There are of course huge social, economic and indeed political inequalities in Hong Kong. All these are now coming to the fore. But the majority of the Hong Kong people are pragmatic. While most would want more democracy, they do not support using coercive tactics for an All-or-Nothing revolution against Beijing, especially when 2017 may not necessarily be the endgame.
At least a new Chief Executive elected by universal suffrage however restricted would have to face the entire electorate. Electors don't have to vote at all or cast a Blank Vote if any or all of the candidates are not supported.
Coming back to Article 45 of The Basic Law, which defines the One Country Two Sytems formula, it mandates nomination by a Committee, not individual Members of the Committee. "In accordance with democratic procedures" in the context of the Committee means a majority decision of the whole Committee, not just some of its Members.
For election of Hong Kong's future Chief Executive, nomination of candidates through a committee has widely been condemned as undemocratic and "fake universal suffrage". The Pan Democrats, student and other political activists refuse to accept anything less than "public nomination". However, let's not forget that even in the United States, the President is elected through a narrow "electoral college" of 538 Electors. Nomination of a Presidential candidate has to go through Party nomination conventions. There is no such thing as direct "public nomination".
While principles of democracy may justify "public nomination", Article 45 is designed precisely to prevent someone being elected who may pose a threat to Beijing not so much by starting a revolution on the Mainland but by fermenting a greater and greater degree of separatism. That would be anathema to Beijing in the light of rising problems of "separatist regions".
Such worries are not totally unfounded as two thirds of Hong Kong people do not identify themselves as Chinese first and foremost. Neither are Beijing's worries of possible foreign influence. The massive behind-the-scene donations to various activists behind the Occupy Central movement from one single source, the founder of the anti-Beijing Apple Daily, whose close friends include Paul Wolfowitz, former US Deputy Defense Secretary, have yet to be investigated and accounted for. Click here
I am not saying these realities are necessarily ominous for Hong Kong, being a free society. But this is no comfort for Beijing.
It is a question of trust. For the One Country Two Systems to work, how can we have a Chief Executive Beijing doesn't trust?
There is now a serious lack of trust between Hong Kong and the Beijing/Hong Kong governments. This cannot be bridged by coercive tactics. Trust can only be built through working together in a partnership that BOTH can accept, not just a method demanded by one side.
Hong Kong may not like all these constraints. But realities dictate that Hong Kong's fight for greater democracy may need to take one step at a time. Indeed, Beijing and the Hong Kong government have said as much.
Hong Kong's deep social divide must be addressed. But this cannot happen if we do not take a first step forward.
In any case, a sea change is likely to follow if for the first time, Hong Kong's people can cast their votes for their Chief Executive, one way or the other, provided that the nominating process is reasonably open, transparent, inclusive, and competitive, within the confines of the Basic Law and the decisons of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, as mandated by Beijing.
This would pave the way for Hong Kong under universal suffrage to build a trustful working relationship with Beijng and to heal wounds in its social and political fabric in the years ahead. I have floated a few ideas how future better governance may be achieved in my recent piece in the South China Morning Post.
The debate about Hong Kong's political reform is far from over. To advance Hong Kong's struggle for greater democracy, it is extremely important to secure One Man One Vote in 2017 first, however constrained to start with. Idealism, wishful thinking, or endless confrontation is no substitute.
This line is also taken In a think-piece published in the South China Morning Post dated 14 January, by Professor Kerry Kennedy, director of the Centre for Governance and Citizenship at the Hong Kong Institute of Education. He urges that it's time for the pan-democrats to realize that wishing thinking is no strategy. They must adopt a new vision for democratic development - and that means working with the political realities, and not simply ignoring them.
Giving the power to the voting public to reject all of the nominated candidates through a NOTA (None of the Above) vote may be an effective check and balance to enhance the legitimacy of the election process. This may be an idea to break the current impasse between Beijing and the pan democrats. Click here
A front-page leader in the New York Times of 4 January 2015 shows how the West is trying to read the tea-leaves of President Xi's political stance and what it would mean for China. Grasping the tail of the elephant, various commentators perceive the animal's shape as what seems a tubular, sharp-pointed, latter-day form of Maoist dictatorship. Collective leadership which has characterized China's politics in recent decades is now dead in the water, they claim.
There is a ring of truth in this prognosis. The whole truth, however, is more complex and multidimensional.
The fallacy of the New York Times article lies in its fundamental contradictions. On the one hand it fears a lurch away from the market, the rule of law and a rebound towards cultural revolutionary rhetoric.
On the other hand, it fails to note that it was President Xi who for the first time elevated the Market to a "decisive role" in the economy with policies to built a more equitable and just society (Third Plenum). It was he who mandated that to enhance Party legitimacy, the Rule of Law (or Rule by Law) needs to be upheld regardless of ranks (Fourth Plenum). It was also he who brought about the downfall of the Bo Xilai gang who trumpeted red-revolutionary fervency.
The reality is that China is now entering into a socioeconomic and political watershed with deep and turbulent under-currents. When one of the writers of the NY Times article says Xi was the guy the Communist Party wanted from the start, he was only partial with the truth.
The whole truth is that the Party has realized that without systemic reforms, not least to fight entrenched corruption and power abuse, the whole Party boat may sink, bringing everybody down. Xi was the leader chosen to do the job and he must be given unprecedented authority to overcome powerful vested interests in the system.
However, that doesn't mean China wants or has to copy the West's election-cycle-dominated and confrontational multiparty politics. Indeed, China wants to find her own development model and path towards democracy. The D-word is by no means shunted even in high-level public addresses. However, unless a better model proves to work in the unique, historical, cultural, economic and political context of China, she is unlikely to give up the one-party rule any time soon. Click here
But while the quest continues, China wants above all to maintain political stability, which is essential for the country with 1.3 billion people to try out various reform agendas. If this means cracking down on certain forces that seem to rock the boat too much at any given time, so be it.
Perhaps President Xi could be more relaxed about liberalism. But once the big genie is lightly let out of the bottle, it would be difficult to put it back again with a population the size of one fifth of mankind, including nearly 500 million peasants, many of whom remain relatively uneducated.
Xi has the weight of China''s history on his shoulders. To him, it is better to be safe than sorry. But this doesn't mean that he is turning China back towards Maoist dictatorship.