Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : November 28th 2013 Contents BG28 | THE ECONOMIST
BUSINESS GUARDIAN www.guardian.co.tt NOVEMBER 2013 • WEEK FOUR
The jury is in. After months of speculation and
an initial summary last week, the final, 22,000-
character overview of China s "third plenum"
was published on November 15.
In the economic sphere the document turned out to be
bolder than the initial summary suggested. The new party
boss, President Xi Jinping, wants to push through changes
that have stalled during the past decade. As the document
itself says: "We should let labour, knowledge, technology,
management and capital unleash their dynamism, let all
sources of wealth spread and let all people enjoy more fruits
of development fairly."
It is by no means certain that Xi will be able to do all he
wants to, but it is clear that he has won the battle so far.
Economically he is proving himself an heir to Deng Xiaoping,
China s great reformer, and not the closet Maoist that some
had feared. Conservative forces seeking to stifle reformist
voices have been quieted, at least for the time being.
The document s interest lies not only in the economic
reforms, which were anticipated. More striking were some
of the social changes the document announced, such as the
relaxation of the one-child policy. A couple in which one
parent is an only child will be allowed to have two children,
and the policy is likely to be loosened even further. In another
widely welcomed move, labor camps -- in which around
190,000 people, including political and religious activists,
are detained -- are to be abolished.
Possibly the most important announcements, however,
were buried deep in the document and grabbed fewer head-
lines. Two moves in particular showed that the party is sen-
sitive to the ferment in Chinese society and the demands
for greater liberty and accountability that accompany it.
In the past 30 years China has gone from a totalitarian
society to one in which people can usually work where they
want, marry whom they want and travel where they want
-- albeit with varying degrees of hassle for those from the
countryside or from ethnic-minority regions. In ten years
Internet penetration has gone from minimal to almost uni-
versal. Old welfare structures have broken down, with little
to take their place. Ordinary people are being empowered
by new wealth and participation, by microblogs and by
becoming consumers and property owners. Change is bubbling
up from the bottom and the system cannot contain it.
Society is becoming too complex for the old structures to
handle. Hence the government s decision to allow the devel-
opment of what it calls "social organisations" -- in essence,
NGOs. The party dislikes the idea of anything nongovern-
mental and has long regarded NGOs as a Trojan horse for
Western political ideas and subversion, but it is coming to
realise that they could solve some of its problems, such as
caring for the sick, elderly and poor, for instance. The growth
of civil society is not important only in itself, but also as the
bridge to the future, linking today s economic reforms to
whatever putative future political reform might come.
Equally important is the issue of judicial reform. China s
hopelessly corrupt judges are unpopular. The party resolution
floats the idea of "judicial-jurisdiction systems that are
suitably separated from administrative areas", that is, local
judiciaries that are not controlled and paid for by local
officials. Though some observers doubt that this will happen,
if it does, it could be the start of a system of basic checks
and balances, which would make officials more account-
That these two gestures toward reform were mentioned
at all is encouraging. That they were barely visible to the
untrained eye shows the party s ambivalence toward liber-
It must push ahead, however. Its planned economic reforms
will surely generate not only wealth, but also more pressure
for political change. Unless the party responds, there could
be an explosion.
If Xi is inclined to wobble, he should remember the advice
in the plenary document: "Dare to gnaw through even tough
bones, dare to ford dangerous rapids, break through the
fetters of ideological concepts with even greater resolution."
@2013 Economist Newspaper Ltd. (Distributed by the New York
Let quite a few flowers bloom
Links Archive November 27th 2013 November 29th 2013 Navigation Previous Page Next Page