The Beijing News, one of China’s leading professional newspapers, published an interview today with Hu Deping (胡德平), the son of former senior leader Hu Yaobang (胡耀邦), whose death in 1989 prompted calls for a reassessment of his reform legacy that swelled into wider demonstrations. Hu Deping, a respected economist, is former deputy minister of the United Front Work Department of the Central Committee (中央统战部).
The interview in The Beijing News, which deals with the Bo Xilai scandal and the need for political reform in China to check the power of vested interests that might stand in the way of continued reform, appears in a section on page ten called “Dialogue China” (对话中国).
At left, former senior CCP leader Hu Yaobang. At right, his eldest son, Hu Deping, whose interview on political reform appears in today’s The Beijing News.
Our translation of the Hu Deping interview follows:
Hu Deping: Special Interest Groups Are the Biggest Obstacle to Reform
November 13, 2014 Politics Safeguards the Results of Economic Reform The Beijing News: One year on from the 3rd Plenum of the 18th Central Committee, which raised the issue of “comprehensive reform” (全面改革), could you talk about your ideas about reform? Hu Deping: There was a period of time [recently], especially when Bo Xilai was in the midst of his “Singing Red and Striking Black” (唱红打黑) in Chongqing, when I felt truly terrified. Wang Lijun said publicly: If only political problems could be changed into legal questions and then be investigated, then we would have an absolute say (发言权). I once wrote a letter to the Central Committee saying that these words were quite terrifying. After that, I made my opinion known publicly, arguing that judicial work [in our country] was going wrong. After the 18th National Congress, the Central Committee talked about comprehensive reform, about punishing corruption, and rule of law started heading in a good direction . . . and my sense of terror started to abate. This time, the Central Committee raising the issue of comprehensively promoting rule of the nation according to law (依法治国), this is major progress. The Beijing News: The 4th Plenum has just passed. What most made an impression on you about this meeting? Hu Deping: What most made an impression was that the Party talked about using rule of law to promote the modernization of the country’s governance system and governing capacity. This suits the real circumstances in China, and it also adopts the fruits of the development of human civilization. For example, the emphasis on the authority of the constitution, on checking public power, and protecting individual rights, etcetera. The Beijing News: The 3rd Plenum was about “comprehensive reform,” the 4th Plenum about “ruling the nation in accord with the law” (依法治国). What is the logical relationship between these two? Hu Deping: In terms of “comprehensive reform,” in the year to now a lot of reforms are being promoted in the economic sector, for example land reforms and financial reforms. Protecting the gains of economic reform requires rule of law. So there is a very close relationship between these two plenums in terms of economic foundations and [political] superstructures. The 4th Plenum talk about “ruling the nation in accord with the law” is about reforms to the superstructure. It means that political reform (政治体制改革) has already begun. The Beijing News: Do you think the 4th Plenum idea about “comprehensively promoting rule of the country in accord with the law” (全面推进依法治国) is a part of political reforms? Hu Deping: Of course. Advocating rule of law, and implementing checks on power, including the emphasis this time on legislation, on examination of unconstitutional [conduct] (违宪审查), on the Chinese Communist Party leading the way in abiding by the law — all of these are reforms in the political realm. Only With the Cooperation of the Political System Can We Exit the Deep End The Beijing News: What aspect do you believe is most important in the process of comprehensively deepening reforms? Hu Deping: Political reform and judicial system reforms (司法体制改革) are already growing more and more important. Comprehensive reform requires the mutual interaction of various sectors, so that the reform of various sectors advances all together, in step. Otherwise, the system won’t work smoothly, and the workability of reform at various levels will suffer, and then various local authorities will impede the ideas of the central leadership. That won’t work. The Beijing News: Looking back from 1978 to now, what can we says are the characteristics of the reforms we are pursuing right now? Hu Deping: At the outset of reforms in 1978, political reform and economic reform were very matched. Aside from reforms in the economic realm, at the time we advocated the liberation of ideas (思想解放), breaking through obstacles in our thinking, and we promoted the reform of the leadership of the Party and of the government. But for a long period of time after that, we talked a great deal about economic reform, but we talked very little about political reform.
I think right now we’ve come back to the place where reforms in various realms are matched comprehensively. If political reforms can come along, then the process of reform will move even more quickly – it won’t be always stuck at an impasse (攻坚阶段), always wasting time stuck in the deep end, where ‘the troops are fatigued from an overlong deployment’ (师老兵疲). The Beijing News: Do you think that up to this point the Central Committee of the CCP has already completed the top-level design of reform? Hu Deping: Reform and opening has proceeded for more than thirty years now, and its now entered a period of impasse, the deep end period, and continuing the top-level design of reform exactly means ruling the nation according to the law. Various different interest groups in our society need to be protected by the law. If tensions emerge, legal methods should be used to mediate these tensions. For example, if the gap between rich and poor is substantial, then certain types of taxation can be considered, and limitations can be considered for various unregulated actions in the market.
But the one thing that cannot be protected is the illicit combination of money and power, special interest groups of privilege than run roughshod over the interests of the people. This portion of people is stands in tension with the country and with the Party.