China’s parliament chief yesterday ruled out any shift to multi-party democracy in a speech that appeared to pour cold water on political reform hopes sparked by remarks by Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao (溫家寶) last year.
Wu Bangguo (吳邦國), who is officially No. 2 in the country’s leadership behind Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤), said in his annual address to the legislature that abandoning the Communist Party-dominated system could lead to chaos.
“If we waver ... the fruits of development that we have already achieved will be lost and the country could even fall into the abyss of civil strife,” Wu told the National People’s Congress, which he heads.
The Chinese Communist Party uses Wu’s address each year to ram home the idea that only its authoritarian rule is suitable for China, but yesterday’s speech follows comments by Wen in August seen by many as backing political reform.
During a speech in Shenzhen, Wen said China must “push forward reform of the political system,” increase citizen’s democratic rights and place checks on state power.
Those comments, and his remarks in a subsequent interview on CNN, fueled speculation of a split in the party’s top leadership, especially with Hu, whose own later comments on the issue were much more tepid.
Political analysts are closely watching such comments as the Chinese Communist Party prepares for a crucial meeting late next year, during which the country’s top leadership for the next decade will be finalized.
However, Wu made no mention of political reform in his speech to nearly 3,000 parliamentary delegates, whose annual session runs through to Monday.
“China’s national conditions strongly indicate that we not engage in multi-party rotations of political power, not engage in a diversity of guiding political ideologies,” or adopt other concepts, such as separation of powers or bicameral legislatures, Wu said.
He also said China cannot “mechanically copy” foreign legislative features and said laws going through the parliament must aim to “strengthen and improve the party’s leadership, and cement and perfect the party’s ruling status.”
Communist leaders regularly say Chinese people already enjoy many democratic rights and that the country is on a long-term path to perfecting that.
However, political power is monopolized by the Chinese Communist Party and the government says China has unique features that prevent any speedy change in the situation.
Many political observers have said Wen’s comments actually did not depart significantly, if at all, from the official lip service paid to democracy and political reform.