Vivek : Issues & Options

China Brief

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January 22, 2011 - January 28, 2011

Political and Internal Development

There have been increasing realizations among the ruling establishment of China that it would be difficult for them to operate effectively unless people’s aspiration and demands are satisfactorily addressed. To perpetuate the command of the communist party, the present leadership has to build confidence among the ordinary people regarding the existing political system to be most suitable one for Chinese pattern of development that would ultimately uplift the living standards of the ordinary citizens. At the same time Chinese leadership also needs to project that the political system in the country is flexible enough to rectify and refurbish its policies.

This is manifested in a speech on the establishment of socialist legal system with Chinese character delivered by Wu Bangguo, Chairman of Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (NPC), in a seminar on January 24. Wu talked highly of the socialist legal reform that has been taking place since 1982 when Chinese constitution was rewritten for the fourth time. As of now, a total of 236 national laws, 690 administrative regulations and 8600 laws and regulations at the local administrations have been enacted. It is remarkable to note that constitution have had very little relevance in Chinese politics prior to the reform period. According to Wu Bangguo, the legal reform has ensured legal authority of the constitution as the main guide to making laws and regulations at the central and local level. He further narrated that the Chinese socialist legal system, based on the basic principles of Marxism with unique national features would serve as the basis for perpetuating socialism with Chinese character through rule of law and determine the course of politics. He opines that such a legal system would provide guarantee against entry of multi-party system with its complexities like power rotation arrangement, encouragement of pluralism in guiding ideology, introduction of legislative-legal-executive divisions of state power, bi-cameral system, federalism and privatization. Current legal system should, as per Wu Bangguo also be able to provide a legal basis for building nation and revitalizing local administrative divisions that has long ensured a peaceful rule by the Communist Party of China. Wu, however, stressed that the law makers should pay more attention in formulating laws to help transform the nation’s economic growth pattern, maintain sustainable development and improve people’s livelihood.

In the same context, it must, however, be mentioned that Premier Wen Jiabao appears to be well ahead of his colleagues in making efforts to reach out to the grass root community, understand sufferings of the ordinary people and grasp public opinion about the government functioning. From January 21 to 22 the premier made a trip to central China’s Henan province to visit some shanty towns traditionally reliant on coal mining. A few days back, in a session of the State Council, Wen urged senior leaders to visit villages and cities to seek feedback directly from the general public. During a meeting with local people from all walks of life, Wen enquired about the new multi-storied buildings for the slum dwellers, price rise of food items and essential commodities, health care facilities and household service sectors. He assured the local people that measures will be taken to improve complete medical insurance and new rural cooperative medical care facilities for the residents of cities and townships during the 12th FYP, and the final year standard medical insurance amount would increase to 300 RMB. During his visit, Wen Jiabao also interacted with some middle aged “4050 staff” (laid-off workers) who have begun to participate in various self-employment schemes. The “4050 staff” refers to an age group of over 50 years old male and over 40 years old female workers who because of their low level of education are laid-off as they not considered suitable for reemployment. According to Ministry of Labour and Social Security, there are about 300 million workers in 66 cities across the country accounted for 28.7% of total laid-off workers.

On January 24, Premier Wen visited the State Bureau for Letters and Calls, the main complaints office of the country where ordinary people can petition complains and grievances. Petitioning to higher authorities, the only means for the Chinese people to air grievances and seek justice since ancient times, was officially established by Chinese communists in 1951 to maintain close connection between the party and the masses. Since late 1980s, there has been an upsurge of petitioning movement all over China because in absence of proper legal system ordinary people have no other option to seek redress against corruption and exploitation. In 1995 and 2005, the State Council issued two major regulations of petition in response to the mounting problems and pressures resulted from the rapid economic development and growing corruption. Wen Jiabao’s visit is note worthy because this is the first time that a top level leader paid visit to a petition office and personally met petitioners. The petitioning system has long been discredited because of a low rate of success in settling problems of hapless petitioners. Some criticize the system because it is no more relevant in the age of market economy. It is a product of the old political system based on ‘rule by man’, therefore, detrimental to the development of ‘rule of law’. Judging from this context, Wen’s visit to the main complaints office indicates that the top leadership still relies on petition system which helps ordinary people to voice their resentment and seek readressal.

Foreign Policy/Foreign Relations

A number of Hong Kong based news papers pointed out that President Barack Obama’s State of the Union Message delivered on January 27, 2011 did not adequately reveal the essence of mutual benefit and win-win spirit in the Sino-US co-operation. According to the reports, Obama talked about China more in this than his first State of the Union Message, but he gave thrust on competitive nature of trade relations. Obama talked of the recently signed trade agreements with China, India and South Korea which are supposed to create 320,000 American jobs. Absence of special mention about Sino-US relations in Obama’s message appears to have dampened the mood of Hong Kong media which was quite upbeat in evaluating Chinese President Hu Jintao’s recently concluded visit to the USA.

State Councillor and Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Dai Bingguo visited Russia from January 23 to 25 to attend 5th China-Russia strategic security talk which was initiated by the leaders of the two countries in 2005. Dai and Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patruschev held fifth round of talk on bilateral security issues. There has been a growing intimacy between the two countries in recent years in the field of trade and economic co-operation. The purpose of strategic security dialogue between the two countries is to strengthen bilateral co-operation on global issues, and enhance strategic trust and improve security environment across the globe. Since this round of talk has taken place immediately after President Hu Jintao’s visit to the USA, many analysts opines that Dai Bingguo must have discussed about the results of the visit with the Russian officials. A Chinese scholar contends that better US-China relations would not overshadow Sino-Russian friendship. On the other hand it may help developing balance of relations amongst big nations. Another Chinese scholar argues that China and other emerging economic powers should act as the third pole of the tri-polar international economic system with the US and EU as other two poles. During his visit Dai Bingguo also met President Dmitry Medvedev and Foreign Minister Sergei Levrov. Dai condemned the terrorist attack at Moscow's Domodedovo Airport occurred during his stay in Moscow that killed 35 people.

Chinese media carried reports of a large number of business delegates from both developed and developing countries expressing their confidence in China’s economic growth and voted it the world’s No. 1 growth engine in the 41st World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos. About 35 national leaders and 1,400 business leaders assembled here for a four day forum on wide range of world economic issues held between January 26 and January 30. According to media coverage, some Western officials contend that because of sheer size of its economy, China not only has edge over many developed countries in the international market, but is also distinctly different from rest of the emerging economies. One Chinese expert, however, viewed such comments as a part of the Western conspiracy. He terms this as “a three-pronged strategy against China – hype its growth, use its wallet, and at the same time, constrain its developm

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