Wed, Jan 17, 2001 - Page 8 News List

Book lays bare China's policy rifts

By Chao Chien-min 趙建民

Since The Tiananmen Papers was published, the book has attracted tremendous attention from all corners. Based on an analysis of the portion already made public, the most important contribution made by this publication lies in its detailed and complete description of the official policymaking process in China. It supplements past research in the sectors of society and politics regarding the possibility of China's future transformation toward democracy. The true face of the Tiananmen Incident has finally been brought into the light of day where it can face public scrutiny.

After carefully mulling over the contents of The Tiananmen Papers, one can hardly avoid two thoughts. First, under China's strict system, run by the Communist Party and related organizations, how are important policies formulated? How are they implemented? Second, given China's meticulous management of "state secrets," how were these top secret documents -- which contain records of the Politburo of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and its Standing Committee meetings, reports from intelligence units, records of Deng Xiaoping's (鄧小平) telephone conversations, and records of high-level meetings held at Deng's residence -- transmitted abroad?

It is generally believed that the model used by the Chinese government for making policy decisions follows the so-called "principle of collective leadership under democratic centralism." What is surprising, however, is that carefully analyzing the four most important policy decisions of the 1989 Tiananmen Incident -- the April 26th editorial classifying the democracy movement as a "turmoil," the imposition of martial law in Beijing, Zhao Ziyang's (趙紫陽) removal from office and the production of new candidates for the Politburo Standing Committee and the post of General Secretary -- reveals they were all made by one person. In some meetings, even the Politburo Standing Committee was cast aside.

Actually, the aforementioned policies are completely within (our) expectations. However, I'm afraid that relying on the increasing one-sidedness of policy information and the increasing absolutism of Deng's authority was no different in any obvious way from the conditions prior to the period of reforms which decision makers in 1989 most feared seeing return. The tone of the April 26th editorial was set by Deng. The decision to impose martial law was also initiated by Deng. After being discussed by the Standing Committee of the Politburo, nothing new was added. But in the course of discussions in the Standing Committee, prior to voting on two items, Li Peng (李鵬) repeatedly reminded the other members of the finality of Deng's "decision." Obviously, policymaking systems are not the primary consideration in making policy. As for the appointments of a new general secretary and members of the Standing Committee, not only were they decided by Deng himself, but whether or not the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau was present to listen in on the decision was not even a consideration. This tallies perfectly with the policymaking model used prior to the period of reforms.

There were other cases of high-level leaders who advocated using democratic methods and dialogue to handle the demonstrations, apart from Zhao. Li Ruihuan (李瑞環) is one example. But when the institution of government is out of step with the policies handed down from the center, the iron rule still stands that the institution must follow the center's policies. Deng's decision to recall Zhao and strategically establish a new Standing Committee is obviously at odds with Article 21 of the party's charter which states that, "members of the Political Bureau, the Standing Committee, and the General Secretary are elected in a meeting of the entire Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party." Deng's decision to declare martial law in Beijing violated Article 67 of the PRC Constitution which states that the authority to declare martial law in a special municipality directly under the jurisdiction of the central government belongs to the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC). Hu Jiwei (胡績偉) of the NPC launched a joint petition to convene an extraordinary meeting of its Standing Committee. Although the number of signatures collected surpassed the legal threshold (one-third of the total), a meeting could not be convened, and Hu was dismissed shortly afterwards.

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