China: Is Change Inevitable? – OpEd


By Mikhail Aristov

China needs political transformation, or else the tragedy of Cultural Revolution may be repeated, China’s Prime Minister Wen Jiabao said in a statement that the world press has described as sensational.

Wen Jiabao made his statement during a press conference following the Chinese Parliament session on March 14th.

Mao Zedong proclaimed the Great Cultural Revolution in China in 1965 as a campaign to eliminate dissent. A large part of leaders who chose to analyze the situation, as well as most intellectuals were wiped out as a result. The country was plunged into a political and economic crisis that lasted for decades. The young rioters, the so-called Red Guards, did away with a major part of the country’s cultural heritage.

Wen Jiabao said in his address that the growing market economy gave rise to some fresh problems, such as the unfair distribution of benefits, corruption and moral degradation.

The mass media interest in Wen Jiabao’s address was also stirred by the fact that he is due to step down as a party and government leader following the Chinese Communist Party congress in autumn 2012. Therefore, his high-profile statement should be seen as preparations for the forthcoming handover of his relay baton, as it were, says political analyst Denis Tiurin, and elaborates.

“One shouldn’t exaggerate the importance of what Wen Jiabao said about the need for political reform in China, Denis Tiurin says. This is, rather, a piece of advice to the country’s new leaders to go on with the policy of mild but consistent reform in a bid to form a new type of a system of political pluralism in China. Today, the Chinese leaders have to deal with a new generation of young people who boast high incomes, use the Internet every single day, have a good command of English, are interested in foreign publications and visit Taiwan websites. The situation clearly calls for softening the current political regime.

Some news media in the West have linked Wen Jiabao’s statements to the apprehensions for a flare-up of China’s Jasmine Revolution, similar to those in North Africa and the Middle East. But the conclusion, as well as the suggestion that the West has brought pressure to bear on China, are hardly relevant, says the Head of the Centre for Oriental Studies at the Russian Foreign Ministry’s Diplomatic Academy, Andrei Volodin, and elaborates.

“China is a big country that has never tried to follow in the West’s footsteps; it lived as it saw fit and cared about its own interests, Andrei Volodin says. China is currently transferring from one paradigm of political development to another. The transfer will prove gradual and will give rise to some minor, but consistent changes. The Chinese will, of course, take account of the experience of the so-called Arab Spring, or Arab Revolutions. But this kind of experience can only serve to critically reconsider the current Chinese experience.”

Meanwhile, some conclusions have already been made from the Chinese Premier’s address. The Secretary of the Party Committee of China’s major city Congqing, Bo Xilai, was sacked on Thursday, March 15th . He is known as a leader of the Communist Party’s conservative wing. The Chinese Conservatives see excessive liberalization as destructive to the nation. Left-wing ideology is still in demand amid the growing social disproportions. This may certainly affect the handover of power to the fifth-generation leaders, Deputy Director of the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Far Eastern Studies, Professor Sergei Luzianin says, and elaborates.

“A large group of new left-wingers has emerged from China’s party elite, and from the ruling class, in general, Sergei Luzianin says, a group that feels that the current degree of bourgeois liberalism threatens the nation. The new left-wingers call attention to mass-scale social protests, especially those that have to do with land possession. They claim that the liberal policy is pernicious and has run its course. When commenting on the union of capitalism and socialism, they tend to lay emphasis on socialism.”

Professor Luzianin believes that the resignation of Bo Xilai is the first, but by no means the last one in the ongoing standoff between the ideologists of two different ways of China’s development. The acute political season will be obviously geared by preparations for the 18th Congress of the Chinese Communist Party. The Congress will give rise to the process of changing political leadership. The Congress agenda will feature a discussion of the way that the fifth generation of leader will decide on as the best one for China to follow.


VOR, or the Voice of Russia, was the Russian government's international radio broadcasting service from 1993 until 2014, when it was reorganised as Radio Sputnik.

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