Xi Jinping’s Southern Tour Sparks Talk of Reforms

Xi Jinping, who recently took over as chief of the Chinese Communist Party, traveled last week to Shenzhen Special Economic Zone, in a replay of Deng Xiaoping’s 1992 trip which launched broad-ranging economic reforms. His trip is seen as an indication that Xi will try to implement significant changes in the way the economy is run. In the words of Bill Bishop, the Shenzhen trip shows that Xi, “is hitching himself to Deng Xiaoping’s legacy and style and is serious about reinvigorating reforms.” South China Morning Post reports on his trip:

In the first official report on Xi’s southern tour, Xinhua said Xi met local officials and business chiefs from state-owned and private companies and stressed that the restructuring of the economy “admits no delay” if China is not to lose out internationally. Xinhua did not mention other activities on Xi’s southern tour.

Xi was quoted as saing: “We should acknowledge the economic and social achievements we have made so far this year and recognise the long-term fundamentals will remain sound … meanwhile, we should recognise that adverse domestic and overseas effects will be long-term, complicated and winding. We should not run from conflicts and cover up problems.”

Xinhua said Xi interacted intensively with those at the meeting, who raised problems with tax, financial and land policies, the bleak trade outlook and difficulties faced by small businesses. He also told them not to read from prepared scripts.

The New York Times looks at the importance and potential impact of the Shenzhen trip:

Mr. Xi, known as a skillful consensus builder, has kept his ideas carefully veiled throughout his career, but his trip to Shenzhen is the strongest sign yet that he may favor more open policies. In a speech in Beijing on Nov. 29, Mr. Xi spoke of the “Chinese dream” of realizing the nation’s “revival,” which, besides being a call for renewal, also signaled strong nationalist leanings.

Mr. Xi’s father, Xi Zhongxun, was a revered senior official handpicked by Mr. Deng to help shape the new economic policies and oversee the creation of the Shenzhen zone. Mr. Xi’s mother lives in Shenzhen, and he visited her on his trip, according to Hong Kong news reports.

“If he indeed went to Shenzhen, that means he intends to make reform a subject of priority,” said Li Weidong, a liberal political analyst. “That would really be a phenomenon.”

Mr. Li cautioned, though, that the so-called reform policies that followed Mr. Deng’s 1992 southern tour, in his view, “ended up being fake” because China’s boom resulted in widespread corruption and the expansion of state enterprises at the expense of private entrepreneurship.

Corruption is indeed the major challenge facing the new Xi administration, which he has confronted so far by requiring simpler and humbler government. For the Council on Foreign Relations, Elizabeth Economy looks at three other strategies Xi and his colleagues may take to try to curb official excesses.


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