Singapore’s United Morning News has a analysis of the People’s Daily commentary from Chen Jieren of Zhongguo Zhengfa Daxue at http://www.zaobao.com/yl/tx120225_001_2.shtml 作者是中国政法大学研究员
I translated selected paragraphs and interlaced them with the original text. The original text is that the URL above and copied below.
The United Morning News is one of the most interesting Chinese language newspapers outside mainland China that is not blocked inside the mainland, so this article could reach even Chinese who do not use proxy servers.
Chen Jieren: Imperfect Reforms and Perfect Conservatism
Chen Jieren is a researcher at China University of Political Science and Law
Twenty years after [Deng Xiaoping’s trip to southern China] all over China people feel the pain that the lagging of reform has brought. Many officials and regular people are tired of oppression by the special interest groups. They are very well aware that China badly needs “to reform once again”. It needs to once again break through the stubbornness of conservative ideology to treat the chronic diseases that afflict it today and push forward towards continuing development. But on the one hand they face the elaborate obstacles created by the special interest groups and on the other the absence of a strong call for reform from an audacious, prestigious leader who towers over China’s power politics like Deng Xiaoping. Thus, the sad conclusion that “reform is already dead” has been spreading throughout China. …..
It came as something of a surprise that out of the silence [on reform] came the voice of the Chinese Communist Party, “People’s Daily” with a commentary department article entitled “Imperfect Reforms are to Be Preferred to the Crisis Caused by No Reforms” in People’s Daily’s the first of a series of articles on “Epistemology of the Deepening of Reform”.
It seems to me, coming twenty years after Deng Xiaoping, that this is a loud cry to awaken the deaf in the main discussion forum of China’s officialdom. It is important and significant in a least three ways.
First of all, it is a blow in their most sensitive spot to China’s decision-makers and ideologists, pointing out the consequences of their serious limitations. For a long time, China at all levels has stresses “maintaining stability is more important than anything else”. These words, originally referring to “social stability and order has come to mean ideological “conservatism”, fear of change, and “protect vested interests”. Under the influence of “protecting social stability”, the impetus for reform has become very weak. All decision-makers know what is going on, but they can pass along the contradictions. Crisis is running ahead of reform and fermenting into a greater crisis….
This article did not discuss “maintaining stability thinking” but did from multiple angles criticize without reservation the mentality of the vested interests who in the name of “maintaining stability” block reform. Moreover, there is the mentality of the decision-makers who without thinking just adopt the conservative way of thinking of avoiding contradictions, all the way propagating to the general society the philosophical principle that “should adapt to change in order to find solutions”. The article warns us that so-called “maintaining stability” is in fact just an “illusion”.
Moreover, the article pointed out the link between considering reform “risky” and values. For many years, the Chinese officials have held to the conservative ideology of seeking stability and fearing chaos to the extent that reform has stagnated. The article in an objective, rational way noted that reform involves risk. This can help some officials contemplating reform set aside their qualms. Even more important, the article compares “the veiled criticisms of reform” against the “crisis brewed by not reforming” and points out the great risks that the stagnation of reform will be — it would put China onto a dead-end road and fall into the “pitfalls of transition”.
… Moreover, the article pointed out that the blockage to reforms comes from special interests. For some years now, more and more people have gradually come to realize that slogans like “Uphold the position of the Chinese Communist Party” and “Beware of peaceful evolution” are just a means for a very small group of people with special interests within the Chinese system to use political intimidation to maintain their interests by blocking reform. However, people can discuss this in private gatherings or at scholarly conferences. Only the Chinese Communist Party’s voice for justice could not discuss this. That the People’s Daily can adopt such a tone, and such a thoroughgoing discussion on this matter, demonstrates that vested interests are the main obstacle to China’s reform. This article is a declaration of war against special interests.
China’s biggest problems today are on the one hand, vested interest groups control mass media and use it to stress and spread the view that reform is risky and dangerous. For example, to party members, they stress that reform could lead to the loss of political power in order to draw more officials into the anti-reform group. With regular people, they use the slogan “maintain stability” and exaggerate the difficulties the pain that tremendous changes brought to the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe in order to frighten them into being happy to live with their old ways. On the other hand, conservative bureaucrats with their fear of change and motivated by the desire to just pass problems along, take an ideological stance that unconsciously serves special interests. They vividly depict imperfect reforms as terrible monsters and ennoble the protection of the old ways with words like preserving “social stability” and “happiness”.
Under the situation of public opinion created by brute force, conservatism has been made out to be the perfect policy choice. And reforms, which are doomed to be imperfect, are made out to be unforgivably reckless. This is a way of thinking that China badly needs to break out of, and is the battlefield between the forces of reform and for forces of conservatism.
The bright spot is that as more and more people have come to detest the “beautifully conservative” policies, with every passing day people have a stronger and stronger desire for fresh air. On this 20th anniversary of Deng Xiaoping’s trip to southern China, although Deng is no longer with us, but let us in his spirit, China’s thinking about the path to reform is starting to get its bearings. The next question is how to put the details into practice.