Asia Briefing: ‘Decisive’ results expected from latest reforms

President Xi Jinping: real appetite for reform

President Xi Jinping: real appetite for reform


There was some trepidation when China’s Communist Party leaders emerged from a closed-door plenum last week with a vague statement containing no details on the long-anticipated reforms that markets had hoped would kick-start the world’s second-largest economy.

Perhaps the anti-reform lobby had held sway, some voices asked?

So markets exhaled audibly when, a few days after the release of first document, the Communist Party unveiled a bold raft of economic and social reforms, laid out in 60 points, that included a relaxation of elements of the one-child policy and further freeing up of economic markets.

The successful implementation of the reforms is not guaranteed and the changes are likely to face significant opposition, but at least it looked like president Xi Jinping’s much trumpeted appetite for reform was real, as the economy seeks fresh momentum.

Deadline 2020
The reforms will boost the president, who gave himself and his allies in the ruling elite until 2020 to achieve “decisive” results.

The government has set up a working group to oversee economic reform and established a new state security council, all signs that Mr Xi is entrenching his powerful position eight months after his official appointment.

China will open up the banking sector wider, on condition of strengthened regulation, by allowing qualified private capital to set up small and medium-sized banks,” according to a report carried by the state news agency Xinhua.

Markets would be allowed to decide on matters such as the pricing of fuels, electricity and other key resources.

There were also promises from the government to speed up the opening of its capital account and further financial liberalisation.

China’s restrictive system of household registration, known as the hukou, is to end in smaller cities, and farmers will be given more rights to their land.

The announcement also included legal reforms.

There had been wide expectations of reform of China’s powerful state-owned enterprises, which will be asked to contribute more to state coffers.

While government companies had been returning dividends ranging from zero to 15 per cent, they will now be required to pay 30 per cent by 2020.

“The money will be used to improve people’s livelihood,” according to the party’s decision.

The document was leaked on social media early on Friday last week, prompting a rally on the stock markets in China.

Some have made comparisons between the package of reforms to those introduced by Deng Xiaoping in the late 1970s and the early 1980s, which helped China to open up to the world and triggered the start of decades of economic growth.

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