Skepticism over Xi Jinping’s Call for “Sharp Criticism”

Recent comments by incoming president Xi Jinping, in which he said the Party should tolerate “sharp criticism,” have drawn a lot of interest on Weibo and elsewhere. While the comments appear to show a kinder and gentler response to dissent in China, many have reacted with skepticism. From AP:
Word of Xi’s public endorsement of “sharp criticism” quickly spread in China’s active social media, where a Xinhua posting of his comments was reposted more than 20,000 times within hours Thursday. Some responded with hope, but more expressed skepticism, if not downright cynicism.
[...] “Many people have been shushed online,” [independent scholar] Zhao [Chu] said. “And many people have been sent to prison for one article. Isn’t it hypocritical for the party to say it wants to hear sharp criticism after it has already tightened speech?”
Willy Lam, an expert on party politics at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, said Xi’s remarks did not depart from the party’s usual stance on speech.
“What he says is ‘we are willing to listen to voices from different sectors on the condition that the party still holds power,’” Lam said. “I don’t see any indication or sign he might be adopting a more liberal or benevolent approach to handle dissidents.”
Human rights researcher Joshua Rosenzweig expressed an opinion similar to Lam’s on Twitter:
I’m not going to get too excited about Xi’s call to tolerate criticism from those outside the party. Context is key …
— Joshua Rosenzweig (@siweiluozi) February 7, 2013
 
He’s talking to the “democratic parties” … criticism within controllable boundaries, by people who know the rules of the game
— Joshua Rosenzweig (@siweiluozi) February 7, 2013

 
Meanwhile, a Sina Weibo account started by an alleged “fan” of Xi Jinping has been offering up anything but criticism of the

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2 Responses to Skepticism over Xi Jinping’s Call for “Sharp Criticism”

  1. Bill Rich says:

    This is a case of “You fool me once…” It is whether Chinese people will fall for it again. I am sure some still will. Let’s just watch the consequences and then decide. So not holding my breath.

  2. Will says:

    This is reminiscent of Mao Zedong’s siren song about a hundred flowers blooming and a hundred schools of thought contending in 1956. The result was that within a year, the Party-state came crashing down on even the mildest of criticisms, and in fact on many within the intelligentsia who had shrewdly kept silent but were still “ferreted out” by their work units for denunciation as Rightists in order to meet Mao’s quota of a certain percentage of “enemies of the people” in every work unit.