News / Asia

Reform a Hot Topic in China

A Chinese couple look at a newspaper reporting on new General Secretary of Communist Party of China Xi Jinping and other members of the party leadership in Beijing, China,  Nov. 16, 2012.
A Chinese couple look at a newspaper reporting on new General Secretary of Communist Party of China Xi Jinping and other members of the party leadership in Beijing, China, Nov. 16, 2012.
William Ide
It has only been a few weeks since China undertook its once-in-a-decade leadership transition, but expectations for change are rising. Regardless of whether it is the slowing economy, or bettering the China’s legal system and minimizing government corruption, public interest in “reform” is growing.

Buzzworthy

Flip through any newspaper in China or click on any Chinese language news website or the country’s wildly popular Twitter-like micro blogging services and discussions about reform are easy to find.

Jin Canrong, a political scientist at Beijing’s Renmin University of China, acknowledges that reform proposals are drawing attention. “Everyone hopes for reforms, but at the same time everyone has different ideas on what reform is, the concept of reform is dense," he said. "For example your 'reform' is different than my 'reform'. In the hearts of 100 people it is possible that there are 102 ideas of reform and because of that reform is a very hot topic right now." 

Some proposals have called for explicit, and in some cases radical changes. On Monday, several newspapers in Beijing carried stories about one of China’s top new leaders Wang Qishan and a recent meeting where publicly disclosing the private assets of officials was discussed.  Such transparency would be revolutionary for a government that places a premium on secrecy.  

Late last week, Communist Party leader Xi Jinping delivered a speech that was widely carried by state media and focused on what he called the “great renewal of the Chinese nation.”

Not a goal, but a tool

Jin Canrong says Xi’s speech laid out clearly that his idea of national rejuvenation was a national goal and that the way China would reach that goal is by reforming when and where needed. "Reform is not the goal it is a tool, the goal is national rejuvenation, it is not reform for itself but to realize bigger goals,” Jin stated.

Some Western analysts are convinced that Xi and his team of six other Chinese officials will not be able to push forward with greater political and economic openness. They argue that there are too many obstacles within China’s system of government, the military, the security apparatus, the country’s powerful and wealthy state-owned enterprises and other forces that will make change impossible.

Chen Guangcheng / United StatesChen Guangcheng / United States
x
Chen Guangcheng / United States
Chen Guangcheng / United States
Government critics such as blind Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng are warning that China must reform now or face much dire consequences. In a videotaped address released Sunday, to mark Human Rights Day, Chen appealed directly to Xi, addressing him by name.

Chen says the entire nation is watching Xi to see whether he listens to the will of the people and carries out reforms or hijacks the government and protects those in power. Chen says that, if Xi does not take steps to defend human rights and uphold the rule of law, China will go through a violent transition.

"The whole nation is watching you. Whether you follow the mandate of heaven and the will of the people and carry out reform or you hijack the government and protect the privileged [i.e. those in power] foretells whether our motherland will go through a peaceful or a violent transition," Chen said.

But change has never been easy in a country that is as tightly controlled as China.

One recent example highlights not only the growing awareness of the need for reform, but also the government’s reluctance to change.

On Sunday, state-backed news media picked up reports from Chinese newspapers about what could have been a significant court ruling.

Resistance

The reports said that a man had been sentenced to a year and a half in prison for illegally detaining individuals who came to Beijing have their complaints heard by the central government.

Such illegal detention centers or “black jails” have long been controversial in China for operating outside of the law. State media have reported that more than 70 sites exist around Beijing.

A court ruling against them would be a critical indication that the government could be cracking down. However, soon after the story on the court ruling, state media retracted the report and later said it was false.

When the Foreign Ministry was asked about the mysterious report on Monday, the spokesman replied with a flat denial. “Black jails do not exist.”

Analysts say that as long as problems are too sensitive to be addressed, the prospect for reform will continue to remain dim.

You May Like

Ebola Death Toll Nears 5,000 as Virus Advances

West Africa bears heaviest burden; Mali toddler’s death raises new fears More

Jordan’s Battle With Islamic State Militants Carries Domestic Risks

Despite Western concerns that IS militants are preparing a Jordanian offensive, analysts call the kingdom's solid intel a strong deterrent More

Asian-Americans Assume Office in Record Numbers

Steadily deepening engagement in local politics pays off for politicians like Chinese-American Judy Chu More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Comanche Chief Quanah Parker’s Century-Old House Falling Apart

One of the most fascinating people in U.S. history was Quanah Parker, the last chief of the American Indian tribe, the Comanche. He was the son of a Comanche warrior and a white woman who had been captured by the Indians. Parker was a fierce warrior until 1875 when he led his people to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and took on a new, peaceful life. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Cache, Oklahoma, Quanah’s image remains strong among his people, but part of his heritage is in danger of disappearing.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid