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Huanqiu Editorial: Do Not Misinterpret China’s Political Reform

[Editor’s Note: The following editorial states that China’s political reform has been on-going for 30 years. It criticizes the Western countries for pushing China to overhaul its political institutions, and asserts China’s intention to carry out political reform in its own way.

The editorial criticizes awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to Liu Xiaobo as “interfering with China’s political development.” It also accuses a fellow Nobel Peace Prize recipient, Mikhail Gorbachev, of being “mediocre” and a “man of guilt” for destroying the Soviet Union, asserting: “China will never have a second Gorbachev.”] [1]

The recent award of the Nobel Peach Prize to Liu Xiaobo revealed the West’s strong desire to interfere with China’s political development. They often educate China (on how) to make political reforms, but the political reforms they talk about mean a major “overhaul” of China’s political institutions. Days before the Fifth Plenum of the 17th Chinese Communist Party’s Congress that opens today, many Western scholars and politicians eagerly offered their “advice.” They threatened, “If (China) refuses to accept the Western political system, China will head into a dead end and collapse.”

Traveling all over in China, one might hardly ever meet anyone who opposes political reform. China has been doing reform for thirty years. Although it started in the economic realm, how could it be completely isolated from politics? China abolished lifetime tenure for senior cadres; in recent years it launched an official accountability system; government affairs have become more transparent; the relentless effort to govern the country by law…. The list goes on and on. Are these not part of China’s political institutional reforms?

People in the West may say these are administrative reforms, not reforms of the political institutions. The political reform they want is a one-person-one-vote election, but numerous scholars have pointed out that this kind of “competitive democracy” is most successful in Europe and America, and that many third world countries that promoted such a practice ended up in chaos. They became victims of social unrest, and even wars.

China must reform its political institutions, and China has been doing this already, but the West has used a conceptual gap that separates “administrative reform” and “political reform,” and because of the West’s hegemony of discourse, this concept has infiltrated into certain levels of Chinese society. Now is the time to poke a hole in this concept.

Politics is never an abstract thing that exists outside of everyday life. When different aspects of the Chinese economy and social life are changing, China’s political environment and internal dynamics change accordingly. In today’s China, the principle slogans, policies, implementation tools and paths, and the make up of official structures have gone through profound changes. Using a government official as a simple example: his education background, his promotion procedure, his political risk, his concerns about media criticism, his consequences for making mistakes, all these are very different from an official who lived 30 years ago.

Take an ordinary citizen as another example: from which channels he gets information, how much freedom of speech he has, how much choice he has in living his life, to whom he files grievances, whether his property will be abolished, on all these issues, he faces a completely different scenario from his predecessor 30 years ago.

China’s officials and people have all changed. Although corrupt and non-performing officials still exist, and China still needs to change, who could allege that China’s political reform has been stagnant for all these years?  In fact, what needed to change has all changed. They could not have survived till this day without the change. Some things that should not change, or could not change temporarily, will not change no matter what kind of outside forces are applied to China, or they may only change slowly. This is the political reality of China, the giant with 1.3 billion people.

China needs to continue promoting political reform, including listening to ideas from the West and absorbing beneficial experiences from Western democracy. The Chinese people truly think this way, but we must make the following points crystal clear: the Western political system is not China’s goal; China has never intended to become a Western style country, absolutely not! China is the only country in the world that enjoys uninterrupted civilization. From a historical perspective, China is a melting pot of all cultures of the entire humanity, but China has never become a sub-culture under any other culture. China in the future will never become a second class nation under the West.

China’s political reform must be gradual. This is what the vast majority of Chinese think when mentioning the word “political reform.” China does not want to do any “overhaul”; it does not need a revolution that topples the reform. The Chinese people treasure stability. Gorbachev, who destroyed the Soviet Union, also received a Nobel Peace Prize, but in the eyes of the Chinese public, he is a mediocre man, a man of guilt. With the lessons learned from the Soviet Union, China will never have a second Gorbachev.

Be real, Westerners. Let us respect each other and become friends.

[1] Huanqiu, October 15, 2010