President Xi Jinping is China´s most powerful leader since Mao Zedong, argues China analyst Arthur Kroeber for the Brookings Institute. His conclusion after a solid analysis: reformers are back in charge but concerns remain.
All in all the reform agenda is a strong one: its diagnosis of China’s economic ills is compelling, and the proposed cures seems sensible. There are three concerns. First, there is the worry that the government has underestimated the financial risks of the burgeoning debt burden and a rapidly-changing financial system. The only clear promise of stronger financial regulation so far is Lou’s statement that a deposit insurance system will be launched later this year. This would reduce moral hazard by clarifying for investors which financial assets are guaranteed and which are risky. But more action to cut debt and restrain the “shadow banking” sector may be needed.
Second, it is possible that reforms may be thwarted by powerful bureaucratic and business interests: some reforms (like the property tax) have been proposed in the past but gone nowhere. On the whole, Xi’s success at whipping officialdom into line by the anti-corruption and mass line campaigns suggests he will be more effective than his predecessor, but there is no guarantee. Finally, there is the worry that Xi’s program succeeds, and validates highly centralized and authoritarian style of governance that could harm China’s long-term prospects for development into a more open and liberal society.
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