2012: Singaporean Critique of Critique of People’s Daily: Stability Obsession Blocks Reform, Precipitates Crisis

Looking back,  many common threads can be seen in commentaries on China’s political and economic development and the obstacles to reform.  Here is one from 2012.

Singapore Chinese Language Daily Critique of People’s Daily: Stability Obsession Blocks Reform, Precipitates Crisis

A Singaporean commentary on the Feb 23, 2012 Chinese People’s Daily commentary says obsession with stability is blocking reform and precipitating a crisis.

In its own commentary entitled  Stability Obsession Blocks Reform, Precipitates Crisis Lianhe Zaobao 联合早报 [United Morning News] of Singapore discussed the significance of the February 23, 2012 People’s Daily Commentary Dept.   “Imperfect Reforms are to Be Preferred to the Crisis Caused by No Reforms” http://www.zaobao.com/zg/zg120224_003_1.shtml  At this URL the China News Service picks up the People’s Daily commentary http://www.chinanews.com/gn/2012/02-23/3690700.shtml  

[Summary translation] According to the commentary, Chinese have placed great hopes in reform for over 30 years. Now that the easier reforms have been largely completed, the remaining ones are much harder.  Naturally in the course of reform, there will be dissenting voices but that should not be a reason to reform.  Some worry so much about stability that reform does not become vigorous and prudent, but merely prudent or even worse, taking the counsel of fears and illusions and not going forward with reforms at all.


Moreover, “Reform is risk, but not reforming is risky for the Party”.  When we look at the rise and fall of great parties and great nations, one fundamental cause of their decline is that they only made little fixes here and there. In the end they lacked vigor and worked themselves into a dead end.  Many localities and ministries are facing serious institutional obstacles to reform that “cannot be ignored or sidestepped”.  If we allow ourselves to be intimidated by this or that issue and do make progress and have the passive attitude that “doing less is better than doing more” or even take the thorns of dilemma as flowers, we can rest easy for a time and serve certain special interests well.  But that will only delay things into we face problems of historical proportions.  If we allow crisis to move faster than reform, we only nourish the roots of a great coming crisis or even fall into the “pitfalls of a transitional period”.

Deng Xiaoping said that there is always risks to reforms but we are up to handling them. Reform is risky, not not reforming will be risky for the Party. [Note — People’s Daily commentary department commentary on September 1, 2011 on the importance of freedom of information rules for government departments also used this quote, attributing it to an unnamed ‘central leader’ 这背后的逻辑,诚如中央领导同志所言,改革有风险,但不改革党就会有危险。   http://opinion.people.com.cn/GB/15563239.html  End note   ]

In fact, when China’s reforms began, when the country was teetering on the edge of collapse to Deng talk on his 1992 trip to southern China, the Party paid close attention to the future of China and its people. The reform spirit meant “Not taking fear at the changes in the world, not taking the traditions of our ancestors as our law, and not being satisfied with mere words”.  It meant daring to grasp the principle contradiction, and courage to face the crisis. Only in this way could crisis be transformed to opportunity, and waves of reform propelled forward that made of China the world’s second largest economy.

小平同志在20多年前就曾告诫:“不要怕冒一点风险。我们已经形成了一种能力,承担风险的能力”,“改革开放越前进,承担和抵抗风险的能力就越强。我们处理问题,要完全没有风险不可能,冒点风险不怕”。事实上,从改革开放之初的崩溃边缘,到南方谈话前的历史徘徊,我们党正是着眼于国家和人民的未来,以“天变不足畏,祖宗不足法,人言不足恤”的改革精神,敢于抓住主要矛盾、勇于直面风险考验,才能化危为机,推动改革开放巨轮劈波斩浪,让中国成为了世界第二大经济体。 宁要微词,不要危机;宁要“不完美”的改革,不要不改革的危机。一个长期执政的大党,尤其要时刻警惕短期行为损害执政根基,防止局部利益左右发展方向,力避消极懈怠延误改革时机,所思所虑不独是当前社会的发展稳定,更有党和国家事业的长治久安。面对全新的改革历史方位,当以“不畏浮云遮望眼”的宽广视野,以无私无畏的责任担当,按照胡锦涛总书记所要求的,“不失时机地推进重要领域和关键环节改革”,“继续推进经济体制、政治体制、文化体制、社会体制改革创新”。如此,我们就一定能把风险化解在当下,让发展乘势而上,为党和国家赢得一个光明的未来。本报评论部

We can take criticism, what we don’t want is a crisis. We can accept imperfect reforms since they are preferable to the crisis that no reform at all will bring.  A Party that has governed for a long time will be very cautious of anything that might hurt its political base in the short term and so resist change that could effect the development of some special interests.  We need to avoid the passivity and laziness that will delay reform. What we need to bear in mind is not only the development and stability of our society today.  What is more important is long-term governance and stability for the sake of the Party and of the tasks facing the state. Considering the new historical vistas of reform before us, we should not fear that “some clouds obstruct our vision”.   We need to move forward selflessly in line with the requirements set forth by General Secretary Hu Jintao:  “Don’t miss the opportunity to make reforms in key areas and in key links”, “continue to pursue reforms and innovations in the economic system, the political system, the cultural system, and the social system”.   In this way, we will succeed in resolving the risks before us, allow progress to move forward, and win a glorious future for the Party and the state.      [People’s Daily Commentary Department]

人民日报:宁要不完美的改革 不要不改革的危机 2012年02月23日 05:28 来源:人民日报 参与互动(254)120  无论方案多么周密、智慧多么高超,改革总会引起一些非议:既得利益者会用优势话语权阻碍改革,媒体公众会带着挑剔目光审视改革,一些人甚至还会以乌托邦思维苛求改革。对于改革者来说,认真听取民意,又不为流言所动,既需要智慧和审慎,更要有勇气与担当

自1978年至今,中国的改革已如舟至中流,有了更开阔的行进空间,也面临着“中流击水、浪遏飞舟”的挑战。  发展起来的问题、公平正义的焦虑、路径锁定的忧叹……在邓小平南方谈话20周年、党的十八大即将召开之际,人们对改革的普遍关切,标注着30多年来以开放为先导的改革进入了新的历史方位。




在改革进程中,可怕的不是反对声音的出现,而是一出现不同声音,改革就戛然而止。现实中,或是囿于既得利益的阻力,或是担心不可掌控的风险,或是陷入“不稳定幻象”,在一些人那里,改革的“渐进”逐渐退化为“不进”,“积极稳妥”往往变成了“稳妥”有余而“积极”不足。这些年来,一些地方改革久议不决,一些部门改革决而难行,一些领域改革行而难破,莫不与此有关。  然而,“改革有风险,但不改革党就会有危险”。纵观世界一些大党大国的衰落,一个根本原因就是只有修修补补的机巧,没有大刀阔斧的魄力,最终因改革停滞而走入死胡同。对于当前各地各部门千头万绪的改革来说,面对“躲不开、绕不过”的体制机制障碍,如果怕这怕那、趑趄不前,抱着“多一事不如少一事”的消极态度,甚至将问题矛盾击鼓传花,固然可以求得一时轻松、周全某些利益,但只能把问题拖延成历史问题,让危机跑在了改革前面,最终引发更多矛盾、酿成更大危机,甚至落入所谓“转型期陷阱”。





About 高大伟 David Cowhig

Worked 25 years as a US State Department Foreign Service Officer including ten years at US Embassy Beijing and US Consulate General Chengdu and four years as a China Analyst in the Bureau of Intelligence and Research. Before State I translated Japanese and Chinese scientific and technical books and articles into English freelance for six years. Before that I taught English at Tunghai University in Taiwan for three years. And before that I worked two summers on Norwegian farms, milking cows and feeding chickens.
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