• Sat
  • Nov 1, 2014
  • Updated: 2:45pm
Column
PUBLISHED : Monday, 25 February, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 25 February, 2013, 5:43am

Xi gets off to good start in first 100 days but drastic reforms are unlikely

New leader lights his fires in first 100 days, but will the overriding desire for stability throw water on the flames?

BIO

Wang Xiangwei took up the role of Editor-in-Chief in February 2012, responsible for the editorial direction and newsroom operations. He started his 20-year career at the China Daily, before moving to the UK, where he gained valuable experience at a number of news organisations, including the BBC Chinese Service. In 1993, he moved to Hong Kong and worked at the Eastern Express before joining the South China Morning Post in 1996 as our China Business Reporter. He was subsequently promoted to China Editor in 2000 and Deputy Editor in 2007, a position he held for four years prior to being promoted to his current position. Mr. Wang has a Masters degree in Journalism, and a Bachelors degree in English.
 

According to a popular Chinese saying, "new leaders should burn three fires" to establish their authority and demonstrate they are getting off to a new start.

It is a much more colourful idiom than its Western equivalent that "a new broom sweeps clean".

China's new leader Xi Jinping has certainly lit up enough "fires" to generate exciting chatter at home and abroad about himself, his new administration and the future direction of the mainland economy since he officially took over the reins of the Communist Party on November 15.

Last Friday marked the 100th day of his new leadership, and judging from reactions at home and abroad, Xi has got off to a good start.

Through his public speeches and meetings, Xi has tried to mould himself as a reformist to carry the baton of the late paramount leader Deng Xiaoping as someone who is willing to crack down on corruption and official excess, while also coming across as a down-to-earth person who can relate easily with ordinary mainlanders.

Xi lit his first fire on the day he became party chief by promising to fight corruption. In subsequent speeches and meetings, he adopted an unusually tough tone on the urgency of fighting graft, saying that the mainland leadership would deal with the corrupt "tigers and flies" at the same time.

This has greatly spurred mainland internet users to use social media to expose scandalous behaviour by corrupt officials, ranging from extramarital affairs caught on videos to uncovering hard evidence of apparatchiks owning dozens of properties.

Such online sleuthery has led to the sackings and arrests of a number of mostly junior-ranked officials.

In December, Xi also launched a campaign against official pomp and excess, which again produced initial results.

According to the Ministry of Commerce, high-end restaurants in Beijing and Shanghai where officials frittered away taxpayers' money on wining and dining reported 30 to 40 per cent falls in revenues during the Chinese New Year holidays.

Xi's second fire was aimed at burnishing his credentials as a reformist. On his first official trip outside Beijing, he flew to Guangdong where he retraced Deng's footsteps to call for bolder economic reforms.

He also raised hopes that the mainland would step up efforts to push for rule of law by signalling his new leadership planned to scrap the controversial 56-year-old re-education-through-labour system that had enabled police to lock up people for three years without trial.

Xi and the other new leaders also showed more willingness to embrace social media than the earlier generation of leaders as a number of microblogs have been allowed to report on their movements and post their family photos.

It goes without saying that Xi's fires have ignited hopes at home and abroad that he would undertake not only drastic economic reforms but also political restructuring very soon.

But that is unlikely. While Xi may have indicated that he intended to be a reformer, his first priority must be to consolidate his power so that he is confident of tackling the more difficult reforms.

Second, the leadership's obsession with maintaining social stability also means that new reforms are unlikely to be drastic.

Recent media reports that central bank governor Zhou Xiaochuan looks set to stay on for one or two more years despite reaching the mandatory retirement age show that the new leaders place great emphasis on policy stability and continuity as long as economic uncertainties persist on the mainland and overseas.

Even Xi's tough stance on corruption carried a caveat. Just as his tough words raised hopes among analysts and state media of more reforms, including a long-delayed measure to compel officials to declare their family assets, Wang Qishan , the country's top anti-graft official, tried to play down expectations.

He said that his agency would pursue the policy of treating the symptoms first by investigating and punishing the corrupt officials.

As for finding a permanent cure by introducing effective anti-corruption measures, that will have to wait.

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This article is now closed to comments

dynamco
who cares ! this newspaper is becoming more like the China Morning Daily than the South China Morning Post it used to be.
scmpbeijing1
The author conveniently ignores the speech that Xi Jinping gave to officials in Shenzhen in which he gave a completely different take on things, calling for China to avoid the mistakes of Gorbachev. This private speech, which was leaked, shows the real Xi. And it destroys the author's argument.
Dreams of reform remain just that in China

Ching Cheong
The Straits Times.
Asia News Network
Singapore February 16, 2013 1:00 am
China's new leader Xi Jinping has dashed the hopes of those Chinese who long for political reform in his recent warning against a Soviet-style collapse in his country and stressing of the need for the Chinese Communist Party's (CCP) grip on the military to avert such a danger.
The CCP chief made this tough remark in one of his internal speeches to party cadres during his southern tour to Shenzhen and Guangzhou last December. The content of this speech was disseminated to county-level officials.
Extracts of the speech were posted on the website of Beijing Spring, a New York-based Chinese-language magazine.
The crucial part in Xi's speech was his analysis of the collapse of the Soviet Union and proposal of measures the CCP should adopt to avoid the same fate. This is how he read the Soviet story.
"Why did the Soviet Union disintegrate and the Soviet Communist Party collapse? An important reason was their losing the communist beliefs and ideals," he said.
likingming
Apart from the mistakes of Gorbachev, Xi should also learn from the fallacies of democracy as demonstrated presently in Greece, Italy .....
 
 
 
 
 

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