Many Urge Next Leader of China to Liberalize

Despite his mastery of keeping low profile and toeing the party line, China’s president-in-waiting Xi Jinping has recently sent out possible signals of political reform, while a chorus of voices urges him on. The New York Times’ Edward Wong discusses the likelihood of reform during Xi’s reign, possibly along the lines of Singapore’s “flexible authoritarianism”:

Those close to Mr. Xi who are urging reform go well beyond the usual liberal intellectual voices. They include active and retired officials, childhood friends from China’s “red nobility,” army generals and even a half-sister, Xi Qianping. Mr. Xi and his allies have dropped a few hints recently that Mr. Xi is at least open to hearing new ideas.

[…] Analysts say that Mr. Xi faces great political risks in taking on the nation’s many vested interests and possibly repudiating Mr. Hu’s policies. Moreover, the authority of the top office has become more diffuse with each generation, and Mr. Xi would need to marshal powerful alliances to push through changes. Another obstacle to change is the way that Mr. Xi’s own circle has profited from the current system: Bloomberg News reported in June that some members of Mr. Xi’s family had amassed fortunes totaling at least several hundred million dollars.

[…] And even among his supporters, there are some who question whether any adopted reform mantle would be more show than substance. “No matter whether Xi actually reforms China or not,” said a member of a prominent military family, “he has to entertain reforms, for the sake of the reformists and the public.”

Calls for reform and the extent of Xi’s inclination and ability to answer them were also discussed recently by Chris Buckley at Reuters (via CDT).