|发表于: 星期五 七月 06, 2007 2:48 pm 发表主题: Democracy? Hu needs it(zz)
From The Economist
Ahead of its congress later this year, the Chinese Communist Party is tolerating a surprisingly wide-ranging debate about political reform
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HAS Hu Jintao, China's president and Communist Party chief, seen the political light? Since he assumed leadership of the party nearly five years ago, he has shown little interest in making China more democratic. But in a much-publicised speech this week, he acknowledged the growing public demand for a say in politics. Efforts to reform the country's political system, he said, should match these aspirations. Mr Hu did not say exactly how things should change. But in recent months he has tolerated an unusually open debate about the country's political options. Calls for a multiparty democracy remain taboo, but not much else.
In the speech Mr Hu said that, over the three decades since China began its “reform and opening up”, changes to China's political structure had proceeded in an “active and prudent way”. More accurately, they have been practically non-existent. Yet as Mr Hu prepares for a crucial five-yearly party congress around October he appears a bit more open to ideas.
His speech set clear boundaries. The party's leadership must be upheld; reform must adhere to the “correct political orientation”. This means no Western-style parliamentary democracy or balance of power between the executive, legislature and judiciary. But his reference to “political participation” suggests he faces some pressure to set a clearer agenda. He said scope for participation should be expanded, but in an “orderly” way.
Even within Mr Hu's constraints, liberal intellectuals in China see room for big changes. A newspaper article published last October in the normally staid municipal party organ, Beijing Daily, launched a debate about political reform among academics and party officials that still rumbles on. Its author, Yu Keping, a leading party researcher, argued that democracy was essential for China. Study Times, one of the party's leading theoretical journals, republished the piece under the titillating headline “Democracy is a Good Thing”.
The party press does not usually harp on the merits of democracy. But Mr Yu was careful to stay within permitted boundaries. Even Mr Hu himself had said in April 2006 during a trip to America that without democracy there could be no modernisation—a slogan first taken up in China in the late 1970s by political dissidents. But “democracy” in party-speak has a quite different meaning from the one understood by dissidents and Westerners. It certainly does not mean allowing organised opposition. Mr Yu did not define his terms.
However, in February this year a liberal-leaning monthly journal, Yanhuang Chunqiu, threw caution to the winds. It published an article by Xie Tao, a retired vice-president of Beijing's Renmin University, singing the praises of Sweden's Social Democratic Party as a model for China's Communist Party. Mr Xie did not mention multiparty systems explicitly. But he scorned the party's continuing reverence for the “utopian” ideal of communism and warned that it could be destroyed like the Chinese Nationalist Party in the 1940s if it failed to reform politically.
Mr Xie's article touched a raw nerve. Party organisations in some universities arranged symposiums to attack his views. Other official newspapers, including the party's main mouthpiece, the People's Daily, criticised European-style social democracy as unsuitable for China. But the debate has not stopped.
A journal controlled by the Ministry of Finance, the Review of Economic Research, recently devoted half of its 56 pages to an unusually detailed proposal for political change. The authors said this could be carried out over the next 20 years. The lead writer was Zhou Tianyong, a senior official at the Central Party School, a training centre and think-tank for top officials. Mr Zhou heads a team studying (with official approval) political-reform plans. It was careful to stress the need to maintain the party's monopoly on power. But its suggestions, if implemented, would transform China's politics.
One idea is for the party to give up its insistence that its 70m-odd members be atheists. Mr Hu might one day actually accept this. The party has begun to speak more positively about the role of religious groups in fostering a “harmonious society”. The researchers also called for sweeping cuts in the bureaucracy, including the elimination of two of the five tiers of government: the townships at the bottom level and prefectures in the middle. Tentative moves in this direction are already being carried out in some places. And in a recent shuffle of provincial and lower-level party leaderships, tens of thousands of posts at the level of deputy party-secretary have been eliminated.
But other ideas will be less palatable. The researchers suggested quicker moves to develop NGOs. The party makes noises about encouraging NGOs too, but in practice officials fear they might turn into opposition groups. The researchers proposed proper election campaigns for seats in the national legislature. These are now mostly filled by party appointees with no public discussion. The proposal suggested that the legislature itself, which is little more than a rubber stamp, should be slimmed to about 15% of its current size and allowed to engage in real debate. It also wanted officials, who now occupy about half of the legislature's seats, barred from serving as delegates. Party leaders would see this as a dangerous step down the slippery slope towards a separation of powers.
If Mr Hu does have any plans for political change, he is unlikely to make them public before he has sealed his grip on power at the party congress. It will be his first as party chief and the moment to install his preferred successors in top jobs. Herein lies a problem. If the party is sincere about democracy, many academics say it should begin by encouraging it within its own ranks. Mr Zhou's team advocates competitive elections for party posts, with candidates no longer proposed by higher-level organisations. So should Mr Hu and his would-be successors start campaigning? No rush. If Mr Hu wants democracy, he wants it the way Saint Augustine wanted chastity: not yet.