Liberals on rise, in words if not deeds

PUBLISHED : Friday, 24 February, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 24 February, 2012, 12:00am


A commentary in the People's Daily yesterday urged authorities to be willing to take risks and face opposition when launching bold reforms.

The article, headlined 'We'd rather have complaints than crisis,' is the latest push by state media for bolder reforms after a number of recent commentaries that have use the 20th anniversary of late paramount leader Deng Xiaoping's southern tour as an occasion to raise the topic.

The online version of the headline was more explicit: 'We'd rather have imperfect reforms than crises brought by no reform.'

The commentary has sparked speculation among some internet users about whether liberals in the Communist Party are stepping up their push for reforms ahead of the 18th Party Congress this autumn.

'It is difficult for reforms to be perfect ... No matter how well-calculated and wise they are, reforms will always instil opposition. Those with vested interests will use their advantaged position to speak against reforms, the media and the public will view reforms through critical eyes, while some with a Utopian mindset could have unreasonable expectations,' the commentary said.

It said some policymakers chose to maintain the status quo to avoid criticism, but that would only lead the party to a bigger crisis.

'In the course of reforms, the scary thing is not the voices of opposition, but for the reform to halt immediately whenever there are opposing voices,' it said.

The commentary said policymakers should be willing to touch on sensitive and difficult areas for reforms because 'the easy reforms were almost done and what remains are the tough ones that cannot be avoided.'

Although the commentary did not elaborate on the 'tough' areas, advocates have long called for democratic reforms, as the past 30 years has focused on economic reform.

'There are risks in reforms, but the party will be in danger if there is no reform,' it said, echoing comments by Premier Wen Jiabao on a tour of Guangdong this month that the country 'will come to a dead end without reform'.

Analysts said it was too early to say if the liberal faction was gaining an upper hand, although a number of belated articles commemorating Deng's southern tour in 1992 - appearing weeks after the 20th anniversary - have sparked hope for greater reformist momentum. The helped revive the mainland's economic reforms, stalled after the June 4 incident three years earlier.

'Wen has called for reforms all this time, but that was useless. How could a People's Daily commentary bring about anything,' former state media editor Li Datong said.

Li said the commentary, published under the name 'People's Daily editorial department' would not have required the approval of top party leaders, unlike the People's Daily's front-page editorials. The Party's official mouthpiece has given contradictory views in its commentaries in the past year.

'This is just some people in the newspaper voicing support for reform, using this 20th anniversary of Deng's southern tour,' Li said.

Professor Cui Weiping, a Beijing-based academic commentator, said mere words would not assuage public grievances. 'From the internet, it appears the public is not too excited by such official rhetoric.'