The debate, and of course division, over political reform continues to play out in China, and after a series of more open remarks on the subject by Premier Wen Jiabao (温家宝), there are strong signs that the Party leadership is tightening into a more conservative posture on the question — or perhaps hedging its bets. The fact is: nobody knows exactly what’s going on at the top — whatever pundits may tell you about what China’s leaders are thinking.
It is probably also far too simplistic — but tempting no doubt — to assume that yesterday’s piece is a direct shot aimed at Wen Jiabao.
In the latest volley that can be read as high-level stake claiming on the issue, the CCP’s official People’s Daily published an essay yesterday called, “Moving in a Correct Direction to Reliably Advance Political Reform“, which flatly rejected that such things as “separation of powers” or “multi-party systems” would be a part of China’s democratization process.

[ABOVE: The essay “Moving in a Correct Direction” appears with a bold headline at the bottom of the October 27 edition of People’s Daily.]

The essay affirmed the path of “socialism with Chinese characteristics,” a buzzword that has long signaled a more conservative posture, or has been used to placate more conservative, leftist elements within the Chinese Communist Party.

Moving in a Correct Direction to Reliably Advance Political Reform
People’s Daily
October 27, 2010
Ultimately, the question of what kind of political system a nation employs, and what path of political development it takes, is something determined by the will of that country’s masses, and by the specific national circumstances, history and culture of that nation.
The New China has been established for 60 years, and we long ago decided clearly the question of what political road we are to take. This road emerged through the painstaking explorations of generations, gathering more than a century of historical experience, and conforming to the trends of the age and the wishes of the people.
“Adhering to the political development direction of socialism with Chinese characteristics, adhering to the leadership of the CCP, the people serving as masters [of the country], ruling the country by law and in unity, actively and reliably promoting political system reforms, constantly advancing the self-improvement and development of the socialist political system.” At this critical stage in China’s policy of opening and reform and socialist modernization, the CCP affirmed the extreme importance of this political path during the [recent] Fifth Plenary Session of the 17th Central Committee [held in Beijing from October 15-18, 2010, in Beijing]. This is [an affirmation] of strategic importance arising from the overall composition of socialism with Chinese characteristics, and it is a fundamental political assurance as we firmly grasp this historic opportunity to energetically promote opening and reform and socialist modernization.
The development of socialist democratic politics is a goal toward which our Party has struggled to the last. Way back in 1979, our Party correctly raised the need to reform and improve our socialist political system, and this has been emphasized ever since. The reforms we have carried out have been comprehensive reforms, including political system reforms. Over the past 30 years, political system reforms have been an integral part of our country’s comprehensive reforms, and they have deepened in step with social and economic development, in step with the raising of the people’s zeal for political participation, and in step with changes in our times. The continued advancement of political system reforms excites the creativity, enthusiasm and initiative of the entire Party and all the peoples of the nation, ensures the vitality of the Party and the nation, expands socialist democracy, builds strong socialist rule of law, promotes the project of human rights in our country, and benefits the coordinated development of the economy, politics, culture and society, providing institutional support and legal insurance for socialist modernization.
In looking back on 30 years of opening and reform it is not difficult to discover that, on the road of development of socialism with Chinese characteristics, and centering on socialist democracy and socialist rule of law, our nation’s progress toward political reform has never halted. We have, along with economic and social development and change, and along with the increasing zeal of the people for political participation, constantly developed socialist political culture, with the base of ensuring that the people are the masters [of the nation], and the goal of stimulating the enthusiasm of the people. We have carried out democratic elections, democratic decision making, democratic management and democratic monitoring in accord with the law, ensuring the people’s right to know, right to participate, right to express and right to monitor, adhering to scientific rule, democratic rule, and rule by the law, promoting scientific decision making and democratization, widely mobilizing and organizing the people in handling the affairs of the nation according to law. We adhere to scientific law-making and democratic law-making, building and refining a system of law under socialism with Chinese characteristics, promoting law-based administration, deepening reform to the judicial system, protecting justice and fairness in society, protecting the unity, dignity and authority of socialist rule of law.
. . . . . [Several paragraphs in the center of the essay have not been translated for the sake of length and time].
In adhering to the correct political direction, actively and reliably promoting political system reforms, we must keep to the socialist system. Reform is a process of self-improvement and development of the socialist system, and its ultimate goal is under the socialist system to better develop productivity, thoroughly bring out the superiority of the socialist system, and . . . ensure the unity and security of the nation, and promote superiority in economic and social development. Political system reforms must be carried out as we adhere to our nation’s socialist system, and must not depart from our nation’s socialist system.
In adhering to the correct political direction, actively and reliably promoting political system reforms, we must adhere to the political development path of socialism with Chinese characteristics. The political development path of socialism with Chinese characteristics was established in the context of China’s history and reality, and on the foundation of the gathered positive and negative experiences of our Party and the people over a long period of time. It is a correct choice our Party and the people, respecting China’s history and national circumstances. In pushing ahead with political reforms, we must keep steadily to our own road, and resolutely must not mimic Western political forms, such as implementing changing party leadership systems (多党轮流执政) and separation of powers.
In adhering to the correct political direction, actively and reliably promoting political system reforms, we must proceed in an orderly way, making steady progress step by step. Carrying out political reform in a country like ours of 1.3 billion people, we must proceed from our actual situation, proceeding in an orderly and measured fashion, in step with the development of production and productivity, in step with economic reforms, in consideration of our nation’s historical circumstances, level of economic development, and level of culture and education . . . We must not depart from reality and the moment, and even more we must not be flashy without substance, making only empty slogans.
Going our own road — this is something China has recognized after going through so many changes and hardships. And it is the compass by which the Chinese people move toward the future, strengthen and develop. Grasping firmly this historic opportunity, adhering to the correct political direction, actively and reliably promoting political system reforms, steadily developing socialist democratic politics with great vitality, we entirely have the confidence and the ability to build a strong and prosperous democratic civilization and a harmonious modern socialist nation on the road of socialism with Chinese characteristics.

David Bandurski

CMP Director

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