Bo Xilai

Guangdong chief steps up bid to trim fat

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 29 February, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 29 February, 2012, 12:00am


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Guangdong party secretary Wang Yang, a strong contender for promotion to the Communist Party's supreme Politburo Standing Committee at the leadership transition expected in the autumn, has stepped up his push for a smarter, leaner form of government in what is being seen as an attempt to bolster his support among the liberal camp.

'[We] must speed up the construction of a small government and a great society,' Wang told a provincial social development meeting, the Nanfang Daily reported.

A Guangdong party source said Wang had been promoting the concept of 'small government and great society' for the past two years and was now looking to expand the experiment - already in place in Shenzhen - throughout the province. Wang made a similar call when he inspected Foshan's Shunde district on July 14.

Professor Hu Xingdou, a commentator and political economist at the Beijing University of Technology, said the concept was deeply rooted in Western-style market economics and political liberalisation.

'The concept calls for both a market economy and socio-political reform,' Hu said.

He said it was a gradualist approach that took reform from economics to social management, eventually enabling the introduction of political reform.

Wang has been engaged in an open ideological debate with maverick Chongqing party boss Bo Xilai , his political rival. The debate has pitted Wang's more liberal 'Guangdong model' against Bo's more conservative, state-centric 'Chongqing model'.

Wang and Bo, both members of the 25-member Politburo, are leading candidates for promotion to its Standing Committee, the party's highest decision-making body, at the autumn party congress.

Wang has in recent months spoken out more freely and put some of his ideas into practice.

In his speech, Wang called on the government to surrender more of its grip on economics and social affairs, while encouraging civic organisations. 'The government should surrender those responsibilities and powers that should not belong to it to society and the market, and concentrate on doing well those things that belong to the government, [in order] to build a small government,' Wang said. '[We] should implement a division between government and society, clarify the relations between the government and society, and between the government and civic organisations.'

The Guangdong party source said the Shenzhen experiment had received the explicit support of President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao. Wen has visited Shenzhen eight times since becoming premier and made a surprise call for political reform in his previous visit in August 2010, marking the 30th anniversary of free-market reforms launched there. Wang is also considered a close political ally of Hu.

It is a far cry from Western-style multi-party democracy, but the experiment is seen by some leaders as a way to forge a new political model that might relax some aspects of authoritarian rule while responding to the needs of an increasingly complex society. Shenzhen has slashed a third of its government departments, transferring and retiring hundreds of officials and forcing others to give up parallel positions on business associations, charities and other civic organisations.

Since last year, it has eased legal restrictions on civic organisations, allowing them to register without direct supervision by a party or government official, to seek private funding on the mainland and overseas, and even to hire foreigners.


Members of the Politburo Standing Committee. Most will be replaced, including President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao