China: Where Wen Jiabao's political reforms should begin

Responding to Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao‘s views on political reform in China given during a recent interview with CNN, college professor and education critic Xu Xiliang, writing on his Caijing blog [zh], takes a familiar tone and suggests two areas for Wen and other Chinese political leaders to begin introducing reforms:


After ten years of being enlightened through the Internet, the citizens of China have become greatly awakened, at the same time that the country has seen a surge in economic strength; not only are the conditions for political reform ripe, but things are also now at the point where if political reforms don't take place, China's economic growth and situation both at home and abroad will be hard to maintain. Domestically, we currently face increasingly severe corruption and the phenomenon of unrestricted power growing increasingly unchecked, increasingly evident social conflicts, greater stress, official corruption, environmental pollution, serious threats to food and medicine safety, a steadily expanding rich-poor gap, a steadily increasing absolute poverty population and ‘stability maintenance’ costs which grow by the day. We're now at the point where there's no choice but to allow reforms. If the initiative isn't taken to seize the opportunity soon, the only option will be to passively accept the changes which follow. Social unrest which would occur at that time will only be all the more acute. Overseas, due to the disparateness between the rules by which China operates and those of the global mainstream, China grows increasingly isolated internationally, resulting in a sense of being encircled and under constant threat. To go with the flow and implement political reforms which would bring China smoothly into the world's embrace, is now a highly urgent matter.



And it is based on just such a domestic and global situation, on just such an understanding, that Wen Jiabao seems to consistently use every public appearance as an opportunity to bring up the issue of political reforms. His sincerity regarding the nation and the people is truly striking.

On this occasion, he has once again brought up the issue of political reform, and like each time before, the issue was made more urgent than the last, even going so far as to express his determination to see out political reforms “rain or shine, unto death.”

Despite the resources available to someone like the Premier of a country, Xu continues, to the end of initiating political reforms, the breadth of the problems are at the same time beyond even the State Council‘s ability to enable reforms of such scale. But Xu identifies two areas from which Wen and company could start:


1. Let the top universities in the world into China, and break up the current administrative monopoly over Chinese university education. Allowing the world's top universities to set up a few hundred campuses throughout the country would be a highly effective way to defeat the impasse on China's political reforms. Education is the means by which people develop, but it's also a process which takes generations, and for that reason any reforms which begin with education will also be sustainable; introducing world-class universities would be like opening a mental window that has long been kept firmly shut and would let the people of this country see the world in all its richness of color, liberate people's thinking, broaden people's vision and greatly serve to improve their character.


2. Let the Internet be as open as possible, and keep China's Internet from becoming an Intranet, cut off from the world. Let people know just how flat and open the world has become since the invention of the Internet. This would also help qualify the Chinese people to stand at the world table of all the excellent achievements of civilization. In terms of learning resources, as a platform the Internet is both cost-effective and high in quality and can't be done without. It used to be that India trailed far behind China in many ways, but since its advent the Indians have made full use of the open Internet in learning all about civilization's outstanding achievements; not only have they integrated with the global mainstream, but their unprecedented vitality and energy now approaches that of America. While they may not be developing as quickly as China, India's economic growth has, however, been distributed evenly between rich and poor, with a bias toward upward mobility, and it's for this reason that their economic growth has been wholesome.

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