18th Party Congress

Reform or perish, journal warns Communist Party

Influential journal calls on leaders to seize the moment as China is facing a choice between openness or stagnation and a certain dead end

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 17 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 20 October, 2012, 10:52am

The Communist Party's top theoretical journal, Qiushi (Seeking Truth), has made an appeal for reform - including long-stalled political reform - as the party prepares for its 18th national congress next month.

Headlined "Sparing No Effort in Pushing Ahead with Reform and Openness", the long article said China was standing on a historical threshold and "stagnation or turning back would be a dead end".

It called on the government to seize the moment to advance comprehensive reform in all areas, and "actively press ahead with restructuring of the political system and develop socialist democracy".

The article, published in yesterday's edition, is seen as reiteration of a keynote speech by president and party chief Hu Jintao to senior central and provincial officials at the Central Party School on July 23, which many analysts said set the tone for the party congress, which will see a once-a-decade leadership transition.

Some analysts said the article and a series of recent speeches by top leaders suggested some consensus among the leadership on the need for further reform under the next generation of leaders.

"The article might reflect a certain consensus on the future direction among leaders as it has been published just weeks ahead of the party congress," said Zhang Ming , a political scientist at Renmin University.

The article began by saying: "Our country's rapid development in the past 30 years has been due to reform and the opening up policy and our country's future will continue to unwaveringly depend on this."

It also pointed out a number of areas in dire need of structural reform, ranging from politics, the economy and culture to land sales, urban planning, taxation and fiscal policy, social welfare, public administration and the civil service.

"[We should] co-ordinate the reforms in economic, political, cultural and social systems and in other areas," it said.

Analysts also said the recent saga surrounding disgraced politician and former Politburo member Bo Xilai could have helped foster consensus over the need for political reform among the leaders of different factions.

"The Bo Xilai saga has raised public awareness of the deep-rooted flaws in the system and thus triggered louder calls for political reform," said Zhang Lifan , a political affairs analyst.

Zhang Ming said: "The leadership should learn that there is no way out for its rule if it refuses to carry out any meaningful reform of the system."

But Johnny Lau Yui-siu, a Hong Kong-based commentator and veteran China-watcher, dismissed any suggestion that the article or recent speeches by senior leaders signalled the prospect of significant and meaningful reform after the 18th party congress, which will convene on November 8.

"Don't be misled to have the fantasy that the ruling Communist Party is ready to introduce any significant political reform in the near future," Lau said, adding that the article was just propaganda designed to mislead the public and an overseas audience into believing such a scenario was likely.

Zhang Ming also said that while the leadership saw political reform as imperative, it also knew the political risks involved and did not know what to do next.