China leadership

Xi Jinping talks, but will he follow through on change?

All eyes are on Xi Jinping and China's other new leaders, with the world wondering if their talk of change is more than token gesture

PUBLISHED : Friday, 07 December, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 07 December, 2012, 10:45am

Are the Communist Party's new leaders all talk - like their predecessors - or will they actually implement the changes they have pledged?

It's a question that is intriguing many observers after the new leadership promised to swiftly reform the previously extravagant working style of senior officials - long a source of public discontent.

Early indications look promising, with the new style being felt - or heard - on at least a few occasions in the three weeks since the new, seven-member Politburo Standing Committee was given the keys to the world's biggest political machine.

The absence of traffic controls for a Politburo Standing Committee motorcade last week was one of the first indications that the new leaders are serious about change.

Curtailing official motorcades and related traffic controls on the capital's notoriously congested roads is one of eight new rules announced by a Politburo meeting on Tuesday. The pledges to revamp the working style of senior officials, and win back the public's trust in government, also included calls for fewer empty words in official speeches and lower-key treatment of top leaders on domestic and overseas visits.

The members of the Politburo Standing Committee, which is headed by party general secretary Xi Jinping, put those rules into practice on Thursday of last week, five days before they made their pledges public, with media reports saying that no traffic controls were imposed when Xi and the other members paid a visit to the National Museum.

It could well have been the first time - anywhere on the mainland - that a motorcade of such senior leaders went ahead without accompanying traffic controls.

However, the National Museum is just a short stroll from Zhongnanhai, the leadership compound in central Beijing.

Ouyang Song, the director of the Research Office of Party History, who was at the museum to receive the leaders, revealed the absence of traffic controls. He had expected it would take about five minutes for the leaders' motorcade to arrive. However, it eventually turned up more than 10 minutes after leaving Zhongnanhai, after encountering traffic congestion.

Initial reactions to the Politburo's eight new rules were positive, judging from coverage in Wednesday's newspapers and responses on microblogs.

Ma Guoxian, a political affairs analyst and director of Shanghai University of Finance and Economics' Public Policy Research Centre, said actual implementation by senior leaders was more important than announcing such rules, because many earlier pledges by leaders had not been fulfilled.

The previous leadership, under Hu Jintao, made similar pledges when it took power a decade ago.

The party's new leaders, including Xi, second-ranked Li Keqiang and disciplinary chief Wang Qishan , appear keen to set good examples - which is seen as a refreshing change of style.