(by Nicholas Wapshott, NYSun.com) – Despite promising political reforms, President Hu of China has made clear he expects that his country will never embrace Western democracy, relying instead on “socialist democracy” until the year 2020 and beyond.

Mr. Hu, addressing the 17th Communist Party Congress in Beijing yesterday, said corruption in China was widespread and he promised more involvement in decision making by individuals, but he emphasized that the Communist Party will run China for the foreseeable future.

Outside the Great Hall of the People, police sealed off Tiananmen Square and arrested about a dozen mostly elderly dissenters who were seeking to petition their political masters on the way into the speech. For several months, the communist government has clamped down on democracy activists to avoid street protests being broadcast around the world.

Mr. Hu appeared confident and conceded in his two-hour address, delivered under a giant hammer and sickle, that the economic boom that has overtaken China in the last 30 years, since the abandonment of the strict anti-market attitudes of Marxism-Leninism, has caused profound problems.

But those who hoped he would advocate more democracy, the rule of law, and freedom of the press to make the working of the market economy more efficient and counter widespread corruption in the Communist Party were to be disappointed.

“China is going through a wide-ranging and deep-going transformation,” he said. “This brings us unprecedented opportunities as well as unprecedented challenges. We must uphold the party’s role as the core of leadership in directing the overall situation and coordinating the efforts of all quarters.  We must keep to the correct political orientation.”

Although Mr. Hu suggested that public opinion would be taken into consideration more often before decisions were made, he failed to spell out how this would come about. “We will incorporate political consultation in decision-making procedures, improve democratic oversight, and ensure the [party] participates in the deliberation and administration of state affairs more effectively,” he said.

While he said that “power must be exercised in the sunshine to ensure that it is exercised correctly,” and that “citizens’ participation in political affairs will expand in an orderly way,” he let none of the more than 2,000 loyal delegates in the hall gather the impression that Western democracy would be introduced in this generation.

Although Mr. Hu mentioned the word “democracy” more than 400 times, he maintained that China would continue to be governed at least for the next 13 years, if not for generations to come, by “socialism with Chinese characteristics.”

Pressure for democracy is strong in China, even by the Communist Party’s admission. A report from the Central Committee for Public Security said that last year about 72,000 protest incidents took place in China, mainly stemming from corruption, mining disasters, and pollution.

A senior Communist Party spokesman, Li Dongsheng, spoke more plainly than Mr. Hu, telling the BBC, “We will never copy the Western model of political system.” Instead, Mr. Hu promised more “inner party democracy” for the Communist Party’s 73 million members. China has a population of 1.3 billion.

Nor is the Chinese leadership going to relax its tight control over freedom of expression. Mr. Hu’s instead offered party “guidance.”

“We must step up development of the press, publishing, radio, film, television, literature and art, [to] give correct guidance to the public and foster healthy social trends,” he said. “We will strengthen efforts to develop and manage Internet culture and foster a good cyber environment.”

On foreign affairs, Mr. Hu’s rhetoric was immediately contradicted by events. As he was saying, “We will never interfere in the internal affairs of other countries or impose our own will on them,” his Foreign Ministry officials were canceling a meeting between him and Chancellor Merkel of Germany because she met recently with the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Tibet, which China invaded in 1950 and firmly controls.

Mr. Hu also offered Taiwan a chance to settle its sovereignty dispute with China he knew the government in Taipei could not accept, saying he was ready to talk but demanding that the Chinese who escaped communist rule and formed their own state in 1949 first accept that Taiwan belongs to China.

“China’s sovereignty and territorial independence brook no division,” Mr. Hu said. “The two sides of the Straits are bound to be reunified in the course of the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.”

China “will never allow anyone to separate Taiwan from the motherland in any name or by any means,” he added. As expected, the Taipei government immediately rejected China’s terms for negotiations.

Mr. Hu addressed widespread corruption in China, which costs the country at least $86 billion a year, according to a report last week from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Acknowledging that “extravagance, waste, corruption, and other undesirable behavior are still serious problems,” the Chinese president blamed a small number of crooked party members. “We must guard against arrogance and rashness, preserve plain living, and struggle hard,” he said.

And, in a rarity for a communist leader committed to equality, Mr. Hu acknowledged the poverty and disparities in incomes across China. “There remains an imbalance in development between urban and rural areas, among regions and between the economy and society,” he said. According to a World Bank report in April, more than 318 million Chinese live in poverty, on less than $2 income a day.

Reprinted here with permission from The New York Sun. Visit the website at NYSun.com.


1. a) What is the population of China?
b) How many Chinese are members of the Communist Party?

2. Chinese President Hu Jin Tao gave a speech at the 17th Communist Party Congress in Beijing yesterday. What did he say about the following issues?
a) democracy in China (para. 2, 6, 9)
b) corruption within the Communist Party (para. 2, 19)
c) foreign affairs (para. 14)
d) Taiwan’s push for independence from China (para. 15-17)
e) the disparity of income in China (para. 20)

3. a) How many protest incidents were reported by the Communist government to have taken place in China last year?
b) What were the main reasons for these protests, according to a report from the Central Committee for Public Security?

4. a) Who was protesting outside of the Great Hall of the People, where President Hu gave his speech yesterday?
b) What happened to those protesters?
c) Why haven’t there been any street protests in China in the past several months?

5. Regarding news, information, and art, Mr. Hu said: “We must step up development of the press, publishing, radio, film, television, literature and art, [to] give correct guidance to the public and foster healthy social trends. We will strengthen efforts to develop and manage Internet culture and foster a good cyber environment.”
What do you translate that to mean?


For background information on China, go to the CIA World FactBook at cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/index.html.

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