While a recent crackdown on wrongdoing by officials has encouraged those who want to see an end to official corruption in China, hopes are diminishing over the prospects for more substantive political reform under incoming president Xi Jinping. A speech Xi gave in December has recently been distributed inside the Party and appears to indicate that Xi will not encourage any systematic reforms that will threaten the leadership of the Party. Seeing Red in China has translated an essay by veteran journalist Gao Yu, who spent time in prison after the 1989 protest movement, in which she analyzes Xi’s speech:
As if to clear up the political smog, Xi Jinping’s “new southern tour speech,” made in early December, began its circulation last week in the party. To my surprise, Xi’s speech reads like a perfect confirmation to MacFarquhar’s prediction. The new leadership’s “honeymoon” is hardly over, but it has already become clear that the Party and the people don’t share the same “China Dream,” as the Southern Weekend incident has abundantly indicated.
The most striking part of Xi Jinping’s “new southern tour speech” is his revisiting the topic of the Soviet Union’s collapse. He said, “Why did the Soviet Union disintegrate? Why did the Soviet Communist Party collapse? An important reason was that their ideals and beliefs had been shaken. In the end, ‘the ruler’s flag over the city tower’ changed overnight. It’s a profound lesson for us! To dismiss the history of the Soviet Union and the Soviet Communist Party, to dismiss Lenin and Stalin, and to dismiss everything else is to engage in historic nihilism, and it confuses our thoughts and undermines the Party’s organizations on all levels.”
“Why must we stand firm on the Party’s leadership over the military?” Xi continued, “because that’s the lesson from the collapse of the Soviet Union. In the Soviet Union where the military was depoliticized, separated from the Party and nationalized, the party was disarmed. A few people tried to save the Soviet Union; they seized Gorbachev, but within days it was turned around again, because they didn’t have the instruments to exert power. Yeltsin gave a speech standing on a tank, but the military made no response, keeping so-called ‘neutrality.’ Finally, Gorbachev announced the disbandment of the Soviet Communist Party in a blithe statement. A big Party was gone just like that. Proportionally, the Soviet Communist Party had more members than we do, but nobody was man enough to stand up and resist.”
[…] Xi Jinping didn’t mention “political reform” in the new southern tour speech. In fact, he has not made any reference to it since after the 18th Party’s Congress. Instead, in his southern tour speech, he laid out his ideological bedrocks: “Only socialism can save China. Only (economic) reform and opening-up can develop China, develop socialism, and develop Marxism.”
See also: “Xi Jinping’s opposition to political reforms laid out in leaked internal speech” by John Kennedy on the South China Morning Post blog. Gao Yu’s full essay, in Chinese, is available here.
[This post was edited to clarify that Xi’s speech was released inside the Party but not publicly.]