In a People’s Daily Online piece distributed widely on China’s internet yesterday and today, Lai Hairong (赖海榕), a researcher at China’s Central Compilation and Translation Bureau (中央编译局), again drummed home the point that China is fundamentally stable and not at risk of experiencing political instability like that now seen in the Middle East and North Africa.
Lai paints a portrait of a Party and government keenly aware of the problems China faces, and working overtime to ensure that the demands of the people are met, and that they feel increasingly involved in the political process.
Zeng Chun (曾春), a web user from Changsha, commented on the editorial at QQ.com: “[The writer says,] ‘Looking at the experiences of different countries, the core of political stability lies in a high level of feeling among the people that they are able to share and participate, and the feeling of identity that comes along with this.’ This sentence sounds nice enough, but in China I have never had a feeling that I participate in politics — in fact I have the opposite feeling of being participated.”
QQ.com’s opinion meter, which allows readers to respond the news and editorial content with emoticons, showed that the majority of readers, 210, found Lai’s piece to be “laughable.” A further 15 responded that it made them “angry.” Only 3 readers were either “moved by” or “sympathized with” the editorial.
A partial translation of the editorial follows:
“There is a Solid Foundation for Political and Social Stability in China“
March 16, 2011
People’s Daily Online
Lai Hairong (赖海榕)
Recently, a number of countries in the Middle East and North Africa have slid into turbulence, and various figures have expressed concern about China’s situation. The writer believes that politics and society in China are stable. Thirty years of reform and opening have laid down a firm foundation for political and social stability.
First, where politics are concerned, since economic reform and opening, deeply drawing on the lessons of history, the Chinese Communist Party worked hard to change its method of governance, strengthening its governing capacity, seeking reform to keep pace with the times. In the early 1980s, reforms began to the Party and government’s leadership system (领导体制), and through 30 years of work, [we have] gradually built up and firmed up for Party and government leaders a retirement system, a system of term limits, a stable system of succession, a system of collective leadership, and a competitive democratic recommendation system for new political bureau members. Thorough and fundamental changes have been made to the system of life-long tenure for high-level officials and to the situation of the high level of concentration of power in individual leaders.
At the same time, the Party and government have worked hard over the past 30 years to build a nation of rule of law, so that political life in our country steadily breaks away from the personal fancies of leaders, and is built on a foundation of rules and systems that everyone acknowledges. China does not have such things as personal dictatorship and hereditary rule as have a number of countries that have experienced unrest, nor will we have such situations in the future. And in fact personal dictatorship and hereditary rule are important reasons why the people have been fiercely discontented and opposed [their leaders] in some countries recently.
Looking at the experiences of different countries, the core of political stability lies in a high level of feeling among the people that they are able to share and participate, and the feeling of identity that comes along with this. If the vast masses of people are shut out systematically from political life, if the interests of the people are not looked after, if the voices of the people are not heard by policymakers, then a feeling of alienation between the people and the government results, and politics is at risk of sliding into turbulence. These are the problems that exist in the countries we are right now seeing fall into upheaval.
China’s ruling Party and its leaders are deeply aware of this, and for a long time they have worked to increase the participation of the people in political life so that the calls of the people become the foundation of policymaking, so that the interest demands of the people are the basis of policymaking, increasing the sense of sharing in and identity with state power — through improving and perfecting the people’s congress system (人民代表大会制度), through improving cadre appointment systems and election systems, through the rolling out of transparency of the affairs of the Party and the government, through expanding the media and supervision by public opinion (舆论监督), and through the development of intra-party democracy (党内民主) and social democracy (社会民主). Some of these reforms are still in the early stages. Some are already well developed. While a complete equilibrium has not yet been achieved, the direction is correct, and we have made great achievements, setting a firm political foundation for political and social stability.
[Paragraph discusses economic change over the past 30 years, China’s integration with the global economy, declines in poverty and general increases in quality of life.] While quality of life increases have not been entirely the same for different groups of people, the masses of the people have benefitted, and they are satisfied. The masses have a high level of support for the Party and the government, and the public feeling supporting political and economic stability is strong.
[Paragraph discusses how new economic strength has raised China’s comprehensive national strength, how the government is moving to increase social services such as healthcare, reduce taxes of the agricultural sector, increase investment in poorer areas, et cetera.] In this situation . . . the masses cherish this historical development opportunity, and hope that [China] can continue to develop the economy, lift quality of life, and raise comprehensive national strength under an atmosphere of peace and unity. This is a sharp contrast to the high levels of poverty and unemployment we have seen in these other countries [where political unrest has occurred], and high poverty and unemployment are precisely the reason these national populations have been dissatisfied. In some of these countries those living in poverty account for as much as 40 percent, unemployment is high and rates of unemployment among young people are as high as 52 percent . . . The situation [in China] shows that the development brought by economic reforms and opening to the outside world has established a solid economic basis for political and social stability.
Of course, the situation of general stability in our country does not means that we have no problems at all. Quite the contrary, the heads of the Party and government are clear. We clearly recognize that there are problems, and we will continue to deepen reform and opening in order to address them. We recognize that the people’s hope to participate in political affairs has not been fully satisfied. The stand against corruption is urgent. The gap between rich and poor among the city and countryside, various social classes and region is still quite wide. There is high inflation of prices for goods that are intimately connected with the lives of the people. There are many poor regions and groups that require greater support from the country. Income distribution is unbalanced. Some people face a difficult employment situation. Some officials implement policies with recklessness. The trend of bureaucratism is serious. These are all things the masses are unhappy with, and the people hate these trends bitterly. The Party and government clearly recognize these problems, and they will continue to promote political and economic reforms firmly and stably in order to mediate and eliminate these problems and tensions . . .
. . .
To sum up, the recent situation internationally has shown that China’s economic reform and opening policy is correct. Economic reform and opening and the development it has brought have established a firm institutional foundation and material base for political and social stability. The problems and difficulties that now exist will be overcome and resolved through further deepening of opening and reform. Let us continue to raise high the glorious banner of socialism with Chinese characteristics, unswervingly pushing opening and reform, ramming down the foundation for stability, and creating the conditions for development.