Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Wen Jiabao on political reform--important?


I've been off the internet for a while, so I don't know if the foreign media have been making much of Premier Wen Jiabao's recent comments at the NPC / CPPCC meetings. Conversations with friends--who are usually given to cynicism about any and everything related to the CCP--have given me some hope that these comments have at least opened a space to which others can lay claim.

At any rate, at the risk of redundancy, here are some of my translations from the March 19 issue of "21st Century Business Herald" (Ershiyi shiji jingji baodao). The original was a paper copy, so no link I'm afraid. Direct quotations are marked by, naturally, quotation marks. All else is summary.

1. Premier Wen Jiabao, "when replying to a reporter's question, promised that the central government will push forward political reform, reduce the over-centralization of power, increase the people's oversight of government...."

2. According to Premier Wen, "socialist democracy" means "making the people be masters of their house, which requires ensuring that there be rights to democratic elections, democratic decision-making, democratic governance and democratic oversight, that is to say creating the conditions for the people to oversee and criticize their government..."

3. The paper also noted that Wen had said in November that creativity is important to any progress and that "there is a direct link between liberated thinking and creativity / innovation; liberated thinking is the cause, while innovation is the result."

Less impressively, the Premier also indulged in "online democracy" by replying to some of the "more than 100,000" questions put to him by netizens. Of course, this is a) a rather inefficient form of democracy and b) a form with little of the "cause and effect" he mentioned earlier---there is no guaranteed result to putting forward the questions, not even that Wen will read them. He can pick and choose.

These things, again, may or may not matter in and of themselves. Premier Wen Jiabao, like this whole administration, is quite media savvy. His comments on Tibet and Taiwan departed little from formula.

But Wen's words on political reform have the potential to restart a discussion that has been practically frozen in official speeches since Zhao Ziyang.

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