Xi Jinping‘s ambitious reform program is answering some of the questions analyst have been asking since the new president took power, writes economist Arthur Kroeber for Brookings. Although his program might not satisfy market fundamentalists.
Those questions are, first, do Xi and his six colleagues on the Politburo standing committee have an accurate diagnosis of China’s structural economic and social ailments? Second, do they have sensible plans for addressing these problems? And third, do they have the political muscle to push reforms past entrenched resistance by big state owned enterprises (SOEs), tycoons, local government officials and other interest groups whose comfortable positions would be threatened by change? Until today, the consensus answers to the first two questions were “we’re not really sure,” and to the third, “quite possibly not.”
These concerns are misplaced. It is clear that the full 60-point “Decision on Several Major Questions About Deepening Reform” encompasses an ambitious agenda to restructure the roles of the government and the market. Combined with other actions from Xi’s first year in office – notably a surprisingly bold anti-corruption campaign – the reform program reveals Xi Jinping as a leader far more powerful and visionary than his predecessor Hu Jintao. He aims to redefine the basic functions of market and government, and in so doing establish himself as China’s most significant leader since Deng Xiaoping. Moreover, he is moving swiftly to establish the bureaucratic machinery that will enable him to overcome resistance and achieve his aims. It remains to be seen whether Xi can deliver on these grand ambitions, and whether his prescription will really prove the cure for China’s mounting social and economic ills. But one thing is for sure: Xi cannot be faulted for thinking too small…
In short, there is plenty of evidence that Xi has an ambitious agenda for reforming China’s economic and governance structures, and the will and political craft to achieve many of his aims. His program may not satisfy market fundamentalists, and he certainly offers no hope for those who would like to see China become more democratic. But it is likely to be effective in sustaining the nation’s economic growth, and enabling the Communist Party to keep a comfortable grip on power.
Labor camps, the one-child policy, hukou’s, pollution, internet censorship, state-owned companies, energy policy: they are just a few of the subjects that appeared last week in the 21,000 character document released after the Third Plenum of the Communist Party, spelling out reform plans for the coming years.
The +China Weekly Hangout plans to discuss some of those plans and will ask panelist whether the Third Plenum did bear a mouse or an elephant. Pending a few logistical challenges, we will hold our online meeting on 21 November at 10pm Beijing time, 3pm CET and 9am EST. We will pick subjects, depending on the expertise of the people joining us on Thursday, and summarize with the question how likely it is president Xi Jinping will pull off the planned reforms.
Is president Xi Jinping going to win the fight against corruption? Chao Pan, Steve Barru and Harm Kiezebrink discussed at the China Weekly Hangout on October 31 how the drive against corruption and political survival mix with each other. Moderation: Fons Tuinstra of the China Speakers Bureau.