Xi remarks could signal China reform


WITH JUST weeks to go before the once-in-a-decade transition of power to a new leadership, China’s president-in-waiting, Xi Jinping, has made pro-reform remarks that could signal a new direction for the world’s most populous nation.

There is much speculation on what political direction China will take after the 18th Party Congress next month, at which Mr Xi will start taking over as Communist Party boss, president and then head of the military – a process which will take months.

Citing sources, Reuters news agency reported Mr Xi had met a leading reformer, Hu Deping, in the past six weeks.

By meeting Mr Hu, Mr Xi was showing he was prepared to be more amenable to calls for faster economic liberalisation and relaxation of political controls. “The problems that China has accumulated are unprecedented,” one of the sources said, paraphrasing a written summary of Mr Xi’s remarks circulated among retired cadres, who retain much influence in China. “We must seek progress and change while remaining steady,” he was quoted as saying.

The significance of the remarks is that Mr Xi is making them at all, said Steve Yui-Sang Tsang, professor of contemporary Chinese studies and director of the China Policy Institute at the University of Nottingham. “What he said was not a real departure from the party consensus, which is that reforms remain essential, and an improved approach desirable. He has not spelled out the direction he will take,” he said.

Among the main problems China faces are corruption, a widening wealth gap and calls for more political representation.

Mr Xi has given no indication either way whether he favours reform or is really a conservative like the man he is due to succeed, Hu Jintao. Plenty of commentators have tried to paint him as a liberal reformer.