There are some interesting reports on Wen Jiabao’s speech in Shenzhen on the special economic zone’s 30th anniversary. Taken along with Wen’s appearance at PKU on the anniversary of the May Fourth Movement, during which Wen invoked the “spirit of democracy,” his press conference in March following the “Two Sessions,” in which he warned of negative effects if there is no political reform, and his editorial in Spring commemorating former President Hu Yaobang, a formerly taboo subject, this is quite interesting. From the Global Times English edition:
Wen’s remarks about political reform came 30 years after the late Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping first raised the issue during an important speech on August 18, 1980, which was regarded as “the programmatic document for China’s political restructuring.”
“Without the political reform, China may lose what it has already achieved through economic restructuring and the targets of its modernization drive might not be reached,” Wen said, pledging to address the problem of over-concentration of power and ineffective supervision.
Du Daozheng, former director of the State Press and Publication Administration, said little progress was made in the past three decades and concerns about political risks and competing interests were to blame.
Du argued that political restructuring wouldn’t bring chaos to China because most Chinese support the current reform and opening-up policy and they expect a steady life and a government that is honest, transparent, efficient and which represents their views.
He suggested that political reform should begin with pilot projects in some regions and the first step should be to create an open opinion environment inside the Party and across the country.
In the Wall Street Journal China Real Time Report, Russell Lee Moses provides some interesting further analysis:
Instead of engaging in platitudes, Wen insisted that strengthening socialism depended on producing political reform to protect the gains that economic restructuring had already provided.
Wen did not stop there. People have the right to criticize and monitor the government, he intoned, and the bureaucracy needs to start paying greater attention to those made most vulnerable by economic success. Wen did not bother to use codewords such as ¡°democracy with Chinese characteristics¡± or ¡°accountability,¡± and he also lashed out at what he cast as the overcentralized and unrestrained system of power in China. For a trip that was supposed to be a simple celebration of success, Wen¡¯s comments were pointed, and profound reminders of what was still lacking.
None of that made the conservative wing of the Communist Party happy. Cadres in that camp were quick to corral much of Wen¡¯s rhetoric. While the local press felt free to feature the Premier¡¯s remarks in close to full-form, the central Party media offered only truncated versions of Premier¡¯s remarks, and reverted back to an economic focus as the new week began. The official discourse defaulted again to the main line of ¡°no politics, if you please.¡±
That may be a safer course in the short term, but this is not the first time that Premier Wen has been moved to hold the rest of the leadership to account. Back in April, he praised his mentor Hu Yaobang, implying that there was a real need for a leader who would not simply move on quietly and leave no legacy.