At a speech honoring the 40th anniversary of Deng Xiaoping’s economic reforms in China, President Xi Jinping was given the opportunity to build on that legacy by announcing new steps forward for China. He failed to deliver, as reported here by Gabriel Wildau of the Financial Times:
“To promote reform and development in China — a large country with a more than 5,000-year history of civilisation and more than 1.3bn people — there is no textbook that can be regarded as a golden rule, and there is no great master who can dictate to the Chinese people,” Mr Xi told party leaders at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.
“What should be and can be reformed, we will resolutely reform. What should not or cannot be reformed, we will resolutely not reform,” he added.
Zhang Lifan, an independent political commentator in Beijing, said the statement was a reference to the Communist party’s political authority.
“That which ‘we should not reform’ refers to the ruling position of the party and the core leadership position of Xi,” he said. “We’ve seen retrogression on political reform in recent years: reinforcing the leadership of the party in every aspect, removing term limits, etc.”
Mr Xi’s speech opened with a full-throated tribute to Deng, despite what some political analysts believed was a behind-the-scenes feud between the Xi and Deng families over their respective political legacies. Mr Xi also twice referenced the cultural revolution — an extreme rarity in Chinese political speechmaking — including a description of how the event had brought “China’s economy to the brink of collapse”.
But Mr Xi did not offer any new concrete policies, a disappointment to those who hoped he would use the anniversary to propose reforms in the spirit of Deng’s pro-market legacy.
Instead, while praising Deng’s boldness, Mr Xi offered a grab bag of previous slogans from which all sides of the debate over Chinese economic policy can find elements both to embrace and reject.
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