Shenzhen three-year plan just a veneer, observers say

Blueprint only fosters investment in Qianhai, not bold political and civil reforms, critical pair say

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 11 May, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 11 May, 2013, 4:59am

Shenzhen's three-year development plan, revealed on Thursday, would not touch the core interests of its officials or bring about bold reforms, observers said yesterday.

While the Qianhai Shenzhen-Hong Kong co-operation zone was placed at the top of the agenda, it was unrealistic to expect the plan to promote substantial reform there, one said. It would merely attract investment.

Shenzhen officials said yesterday the plan's full contenthad not been released, although leaders had briefed officials on its key points. They said it would focus on five areas, including accelerated reform in Qianhai to promote the city's service industries and industry upgrades and enhance co-operation between Shenzhen and Hong Kong.

Jin Xinyi, a member of Shenzhen's Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, said it was clear there would be no political or civil reforms in Qianhai.

"The Qianhai project is an experimental economic zone with the clear goal of making the yuan a global currency, instead of a pilot project for administrative and legal reforms," he said.

"Institutional reform in Qianhai will only focus on those fields that promote the city's modern service industry and industry upgrades and enhance co-operation between Shenzhen and Hong Kong. Hopes are slim that concrete administrative and legal reforms will follow in Qianhai."

The new graft watchdog established in the zone this month was also not much of a breakthrough, he said. "It is dependent on the municipal Communist Party committee and various departments," Jin said. "It looks little like the Independent Commission Against Corruption in Hong Kong."

Ding Li, an economist at the Guangdong Academy of Social Science, described the programme as disappointing.

"We see no courage and insight from the plan to move on legal reform, to cut down the huge government debts and expenses and to release administrative powers," Ding said.

Jin and Ding do not believe the reform plan will breathe new life into Shenzhen's leadership.

"They are so comfortable with their interests, nobody wants to take risks any more," Ding said.