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.
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

Obama: Alaskans Feel Signs of Climate Change

They're seeing bigger storm surges as sea ice melts, more wildfires, erosion of glaciers, shorelines More

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

Magical Photo Slides Show Native Americans in Late 1800s

Walter McClintock spent 20 years photographing the Blackfoot Indians and their vanishing culture at the dawn of the modern age More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs