Tuesday, February 19, 2008
Think-Tank Calls fro Checks on China's Rulers
--Researchers at China’s top Communist party think-tank have called for far-reaching democratic reform to curtail corruption, wind back press censorship and make the country’s parliament more representative. --The reform blueprint is contained in a report called “Storming the Fortress: A research report on China’s political system reform after the 17th party congress”, whose authors include senior researchers at the Central Party School in Beijing. --The report says that the goal of political reform in China should not be that of “western-style general elections or a multi-party system” with press freedoms. --The authors do, however, go on to propose many reforms with a western flavour, in an effort to build a “modern civil society” and bring the political system into line with a modern and advanced economy. --A new government, which operates both under and parallel to the party leadership, will be chosen next month, at the annual session of the National People’s Congress. --The report’s contents reflect a long-standing and lively internal debate within elite policymaking circles in China on the dangers of the use of untrammelled power in a one-party state. --While questioning single-party rule is mostly taboo in public forums, leading scholars have recognised the need for formal checks on the party’s power, both through a strengthened legal system and a freer media. The report says the need for political reform is “urgent” but that liberalisation must be pursued “steadily”. --In one of the more radical recommendations, the report calls for the NPC to be made a fully representative body, with government officials gradually removed from its ranks to be replaced by people chosen by local communities. The NPC should also have a direct role in framing the budget, its sessions should be timed to coincide with the fiscal year, and competitive voting should be allowed, the report says. --The media also needed to be allowed to develop more independently of the party and its propaganda ministry, which oversees the press and dictates the news agenda. “Though the news media are under the party, which makes it impossible for them to be totally independent,” they should have some power to stand against the party and governments to fulfil their responsibilities, the report says. --The appearance of the 366-page report, which is on sale in some Beijing bookshops, where it was bought by the Financial Times, was first reported by Reuters. Other reports from the Central Party School and party bodies in recent years have pointed to systematic governance problems and grassroots anger at corruption.