Guangdong's party secretary Wang Yang has made a fresh call for reform in what analysts are describing as a last-ditch attempt to garner support for his ascension to the top ruling body in the National Party Congress.
Wang, who is widely seen as one of the party's leading voices for reform, told party officials in Foshan on Tuesday that the drive for change "must never stagnate and never stop", the Southern Metropolis Daily of Guangzhou said yesterday.
He was talking mainly about market and administrative reforms needed to improve the economy and the investment environment, but also of the need to defuse social conflict that might otherwise escalate into unrest. To make his case, Wang used the "frog-in-the-pot" analogy.
"Like a frog immersed in warm water, when the water temperature isn't too hot, nobody wants to take a risky step. But by the time you realise [how hot it is], it is already too late to find a solution," Wang was quoted as saying.
"Reform is the fundamental solution; we shouldn't be afraid of risks," he said. "It is difficult, but there will be more difficulties if we don't carry out reform."
The speech comes on the heels of Wang's visit last week to the Communist Party's revolutionary capital of Yanan , Shaanxi province, where he paid homage to a statue of the party's late patriarch, Mao Zedong .
Political analysts say the events were a last-minute plea to both liberal and conservative camps as Wang vies for a seat on the Politburo Standing Committee. The party's once-in-a-decade leadership reshuffle could come as soon as next month.
Wang has not been regarded as a top contender, if only because one leading theory is that the Standing Committee will be cut to seven seats.
But Wang's appeal suggests he believes that some top positions remain in play, said Chen Ziming , an independent analyst.
"Obviously, he is not absolutely certain that he will enter the Politburo Standing Committee, so he wants to appeal to the people on [the conservative] side," Chen said. "He wants to [score] some good points across the board - among the left and the right - in order to make things smoother."
Wang has built much of his reputation as a reformer with his relatively liberal approach to managing the mainland's most populous province, including removing corrupt cadres and allowing democratic elections in the restive village of Wukan.
Professor Joseph Cheng, political scientist at City University, said Wang was engaged in a careful balancing act.
"He is making an appeal for support in the final decision-making process," he said. "Going to Yanan and talking about reform are safe moves. He wouldn't want to antagonise any faction in any way."