Bo Xilai

Chongqing model 'barrier to reforms'

PUBLISHED : Monday, 26 March, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 26 March, 2012, 12:00am


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A leading mainland economist and market-reform pioneer has criticised the so-called 'Chongqing model'' championed by its disgraced party leader, Bo Xilai , saying the policy was a setback for the rule of law and market economics.

Wu Jinglian , one of China's best-known liberal economists, said the former Chongqing party chief's campaign against organised crime had violated the rule of law while his 'populist' economic policy defied the basic principles of a market economy.

Wu, 82, said China's political reform should focus on three things: rule of law, democracy and constitutional government.

But he said rule of law was the first priority among the three, and Bo's anti-triad campaign had ignored it.

'I am relatively concerned about the situation in Chongqing, where legal experts from academia had voiced concerns about practices that damage the rule of law,' he said. 'This is a very serious problem and the rule of law is the absolute bottom line.'

Bo, a Politburo member widely regarded as one of more charismatic politicians who, until recently, was seen to be manoeuvring for promotion in the upcoming party congress, was removed from the top party post in the southwestern municipality on March 15. His abrupt sacking was ostensibly linked to the scandal involving his police chief and former trusted ally Wang Lijun , who last month fled to the US consulate in Chengdu but was turned over to state security and has not been seen since.

Behind the scenes, however, analysts said Bo's ouster was the result of an intensifying internal power struggle ahead of the once-in-a-decade power transition this autumn. Bo's Chongqing model has stirred much controversy as much for its high-handed anti-triad campaign as its attempts to revive red culture reminiscent of the Cultural Revolution.

Wu has questioned Bo's economic policy. 'Such populism means sparing no expense to please the population, but it caused many problems for Chongqing's budget. One cannot invest such huge resources while having little regard for where such resources come from. One also has to consider whether such investments produce returns.'

Wu once again called for political reform, saying little progress had been made in this regard in the 2 1/2 decades since the party's 13th congress in 1987 called for such action. He blamed vested interests for stalling the scheduled restructuring.

Wu, writing in China Reform magazine recently, warned of two sets of competing forces: one between the development of rule of law and crony capitalism; the other between reform and revolution. 'Without any question, political reform must forge ahead as envisaged by Deng Xiaoping ,' Wu said.

He praised Guangdong's Wukan village experiment in democracy. He also praised Shenzhen's pioneering reform to allow non-governmental organisations to register without a 'patron' government agency.

The simmering resentment over local officials' corrupt and autocratic behaviour finally erupted into major unrest in Wukan village late last year. But under Bo's political rival, Guangdong party chief Wang Yang , the government adopted an open style to deal with defiant villagers, eventually allowing them self-rule.

Wang's more liberal 'Guangdong model' is seen by some as the opposite of Bo's 'Chongqing model'.