While many expect Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping (習近平) to be a reformist when he takes over the Chinese presidency, Chinese dissidents yesterday told a forum in Taipei they were pessimistic about possible political reform in China because of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) rigid political framework.
“Regardless of what the outside world expects of the arrival of a reformist in China, all Chinese regimes are bound to be conservative and political reform is likely to be just fantasy,” Hu Ping (胡平), a US-based Chinese dissident, said in a forum which discussed China’s possible political development after Xi takes over from outgoing Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤).
The forum was organized by former Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Lo Wen-chia (羅文嘉).
Unlike Western democracies, the transition of power in the CCP is never complete, as it is difficult for a new president to assert his power under the watchful eyes and influence of former leaders and the new leader is forced to continue the policies of his predecessors, Hu Ping said.
The other reason is that the CCP regime had taken an “evil path,” which tolerated government officials’ corruption and implemented a “state capitalism” system that only benefits state-owned enterprises. Since the Tiananmen Massacre in 1989, the “point of no return” had been passed so everyone in the country was sucked into the system, which was why it would not tolerate democracy, Hu Ping added.
“There will be a call for reform [after the transition of power], and, in fact, there is room for people to voice opposition in China today. However, the number of people who dare to oppose the government is not high enough,” said Hu, Ping who arrived in Taipei from New York on Sunday.
Contrary to what many analysts think, Hu Ping said Xi “has never been seen as a reformist.”
Wang Dan (王丹), a Chinese dissident teaching at National Tsing Hua University, also expected the new administration to be a conservative one, judging from the members of the seven-man Central Standing Committee of the CCP Politburo.
In the next five years, Beijing will follow the same path it has taken over the past decade — doing whatever is necessary to stabilize the country’s political situation and develop the economy, as well as keep a tight rein on democratic movements, Wang said.
“As long as CCP members don’t see how a political reform could bring them substantial benefits, and as long they see a risk in carrying it out, they won’t do it,” Wang said.
Wang did see a possible change of leadership style in the future because of Xi’s background — as a member of China’s “princelings.”
The princelings tend to be more expressive in their comments, but understand the concept of “performance politics” and how to deal with the media, which could produce more outspoken politicians with more distinct personal characters, he said.
The expectations of Xi’s leadership were the same as the expectations heaped on Hu Jintao 10 years ago, “but people ended up being disappointed at Hu’s performance, in particular on political reform,” Academia Sinica political scientist Hsu Szu-chien (徐斯儉) said.
The political rise of Xi has been the result of a “balance of power” after factional negotiations, which explained why he would not be a reformist, Hsu said.
“If Xi did carry out political reform, the first thing to do would be to remove those faction leaders who gave him power and change the status quo of the balance of power. Do you think he would do that?” Hsu asked.