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Tiananmen Square crackdown

Li Peng's thoughts get a big airing

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 12 July, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 12 July, 2012, 12:00am

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In a rare move, People's Daily ran a full-page article yesterday about former premier Li Peng's new books on macroeconomics, as well as a commentary criticising mainstream Western economic thinking.

The article on Li's books comes at a politically sensitive time, ahead of a party congress this autumn that will see a once-in-a-decade transfer of power.

There is also revived debate about the nation's future, including crucial reforms to market economics.

Li, a conservative who also served as chairman of the National People's Congress Standing Committee, saw his three volumes published about two weeks ago, just days before the publication of another book by his predecessor, Qiao Shi , a party moderate.

In the 1990s, Li was No 2 in the party's ruling hierarchy, while Qiao was No 3, and they were considered political rivals.

While Li's books - containing 277 reports, speeches, conversation records, articles and notes by Li from 1984 to 2006 - reflect the retired leader's relatively conservative views on economics, such as his emphasis on the government's role in regulating the market, Qiao's book calls for strengthening the rule of law.

Neither's works, however, contain anything of a politically sensitive nature or mention of political events such as the bloody June 4, 1989 crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in Tiananmen Square, which Li has been accused of masterminding.

Still, the timing of their books' publication, as well as the high-profile coverage given them by the party's mouthpiece, has attracted the attention of China watchers.

'They [the articles] certainly reflect the views of some leaders,' said Zhang Lifan , a political affairs commentator.

Zhang said all factions were jockeying for position in the party while hoping their policies are given priority.

Yesterday's article said Li's books reflect his thoughts about establishing a socialist market economic system, reaching a balance between reform, development and stability, and accelerating economics-related legislation.

The newspaper said the books were expected to boost citizens' understanding of the nation's reform and opening-up, and to promote the transformation of its economic growth model.

The official mouthpiece also carried a commentary yesterday headlined, 'To Grasp the Nature of the Neo-liberalism in the West', which denounced the West's free-market economies.

It said Western economic theories had had disastrous consequences for the global economy and for social development in many countries. The newspaper cited as evidence the failures of market-led reforms in the former Soviet bloc and in Latin American nations.

'The recent failures of some free-market economies in the West have revived a call by some conservatives to strengthen state intervention in the market,' said Zhang, a historian formerly with the government-run Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

Contemporary neo-liberalism supports privatisation of state-owned enterprises, deregulation of markets, and promotion of the private sector's role in society.

Calls in China for bold reform to break the state-owned enterprises' monopoly of the market and to create a level playing field for the private sector have grown increasingly loud.