In the same speech during which he rejected analogies between unrest in the Arab world and the situation in China, Premier Wen Jiabao discussed the prospects for political reform in China:
Wen, who has often been a lonely voice within the ruling Communist Party hierarchy advocating more openness, acknowledged that three decades of spectacular economic growth had left China a country of “weak economic foundations and uneven development.” He said too many Chinese lack equal access to a good education and health care, and many had not seen the benefits of China’s dynamic growth.
The solution, he said, was political reform — but reform that was gradual and led by the Communist Party. “It’s by no means easy to pursue political restructuring in a country with 1.3 billion people,” Wen said. “It needs to take place in an orderly way, under the leadership of the party.
“Political restructuring and economic reform should be advanced in a coordinated way,” Wen said. “Political restructuring offers a guarantee for our economic restructuring endeavors. Without political restructuring, the economic restructuring will not succeed, and the achievements we made in economic restructuring may be lost.”
Asked specifically whether his view of political reform meant Chinese might eventually be allowed to vote in multiparty elections, Wen said the country already had direct elections at the village level, indirect elections at the municipal level, and multiple candidates competing for Communist Party Central Committee positions — although those candidates are of course always vetted by the Communist Party.
Earlier during the NPC meetings, Wu Bangguo, Chairman of the Standing Committee of the CCP, ruled out the possibility of a multi-party democracy in China.
Read more about this year’s CPPCC/NPC meetings via CDT, which just concluded.