Russell Leigh Moses: China’s Communist Party Prepares for a Showdown

Beijing-based analyst and professor Russell Leigh Moses writes for the Wall Street Journal about the annual plenum of the Central Committee:

Economic policy centered on the five-year plan is supposed to be the main topic, along with personnel.

But a growing number in the government would like to expand the conversation and take on a far more vexing question: political reform.

For some time now, there has been a debate within the Party, not about how to survive in power but how to thrive and grow. Under the rubric of “Party-building”, cadres have been in constant conversation about just how much reach the Party should have when it comes to the economy, how much control is needed over society.

Would a smaller, smarter Party be more efficient? Is oversight of the Party best achieved by anti-corruption campaigns or the steady stare of a public that would hold officials accountable? Would that mean elections? Should the Party be in the business of persuading the populace through a more attractive ideology or should it focus on helping local governments provide needed services to society?

These are not empty debating points or some meaningless ideological exercise. Instead, these discussions reflect real concerns among many of the faithful that the legacy of the present leadership needs to go beyond simply growing the economy and avoiding decline. And many of the arguments about limiting the power of the Communist Party are a direct attack on hardliners in the leadership who have had the upper-hand under Hu Jintao—hardliners who think that society needs to be civilized and guided, and that the best Party is a dominating one.

October 14, 2010 10:51 PM
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Categories: Politics