'He's not cool,' Chinese magazine editorial slams Xi Jinping for lacking 'wisdom and courage'
A Beijing-based business magazine raised eyebrows this week by running a full-page editorial urging the country’s leaders to pursue further political reforms to ensure future economic prosperity.
In what many consider a rare and bold move, an editorial entitled “Let’s continue to care about politics,” criticised President Xi Jinping for lacking “wisdom and courage” in pushing forward necessary reforms.
Without directly naming Xi, Zhao Li, the weekly’s editor-in-chief wrote,
“It was only until last week when the debate broke out that our new leader’s verbal environment was confirmed - he is not fashionable, and he is far from cool.”
It continued to argue that risk-averse Chinese investors won’t be happy with a society where the distribution of wealth is "stagnant and deformed," and people's spending is therefore restricted.
“I know many investors who reminisce about Deng,” he wrote, referring to Deng Xiaoping, China's reformist leader who after Mao Zedong died in 1976 led the country towards a more market economy “Because the history of 1980s tells us the more the government gives up, the more our society will grow.”
Three generations of leaders since Deng, Zhao argued, only inherited Deng’s political reforms - without inheriting the “wisdom and courage” to solve them.
The author also compared China's popular social media site Weibo with Peking University's legendary "Democracy Wall" in the late 1970s. Many consider the wall a symol of China's freedom of speech during the 1980s, a period of relative freedom in the country's modern history.
When reached by phone on Friday afternoon, Zhao told SCMP.com that he was surprised by the reaction to his article. He denied that the timing of the editorial had been deliberate. Zhao said he had not yet heard from mainland authorities.
Zhao's editorial was reposted thousands of times on Weibo, where readers commended him for speaking the truth. Most news web sites who carried the editorial had removed it from their pages by Friday afternoon.
"They would not take any step forward without a kick in the backside," wrote a micro-blogger.
Others worried about the fate of the outspoken weekly and feared it would be shut down by authorities.
The Investor Journal, which describes itself as a Chinese middle-class investment guide modelled after Barron's of the US, says on its website that it has about 100,000 readers in top tier Chinese cities.
Some people drew parallels between the weekly with the World Economic Herald, a reformist and outspoken Shanghai-based weekly which operated from 1980 to 1989. It was shut down by then Shanghai party secretary Jiang Zemin amid the political turmoil of the Tiananmen Square protests.
In the past weeks, “constitutionalism” has become a hot topic on China’s social media as liberals debated with conservatives over the urgency to introduce futher political reforms including the rule of law.
Several state-run publications have later issued scathing rebukes for such calls, saying they would lead to chaos and were aimed at copying western models.
In an editorial published by the People’s Daily on Friday, western theories were criticised for “not serving the core interests of the Chinese nation.”