Will Reform vs. Anti-Reform Define 2013?

For The Wall Street Journal, Russell Leigh Moses of the Beijing Center for Chinese Studies explores whether a new political struggle is emerging between new Communist Party chief Xi Jinping, who has indicated a desire to push through reform, and the anti-reform allies of former leader Hu Jintao. Moses details the forces at play, and ponders Xi’s next move:

He could try to force a showdown with Hu and his allies on major issues. Or Xi and his colleagues might risk a bit of radical reform of some sort, to find support in the street, and try to capitalize on those parts of the society and the party that clamor for change, and are weary of waiting.

Or Xi could wait a bit, hibernate until the spring, when Hu is scheduled to step down as president in March and the political path for the summer then a bit clearer. Xi could initiate some small change in the interim – perhaps speeding up the restructuring of the hukou system.

But can reform wait even that long? Can the economy?

Or Xi could move to find an accommodation now, working from the common ground that surely must exist–even after Xi’s early sniping at the state of the party that he’s had to inherit. It’s not entirely clear if it’s Xi’s program that opponents object to, or more the speed at which Xi seems to be pursuing reforms.

This much seems already true: that the handover to a new leadership was the easy part—a mere transition. The hopes—and the hazards — of a far greater transformation beckon.

See also CDT coverage of an open letter released on Christmas Day urging the new leadership to pursue political reform.


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