Pro­fes­sor's stark es­say on China's fu­ture re­but­ted

China Daily (Canada) - - FRONT PAGE - By HUA SHENGDUN in Wash­ing­ton

Ma­jor China ex­perts in Wash­ing­ton have re­but­ted a con­tro­ver­sial es­say on China that ap­peared in last Fri­day’s Wall Street Jour­nal.

The col­umn — en­ti­tled “The Com­ing Chi­nese Crackup” — was penned by China hand David Sham­baugh, pro­fes­sor of in­ter­na­tional af­fairs and the direc­tor of the China Pol­icy Pro­gram at Ge­orge Wash­ing­ton Uni­ver­sity, who as­serted, among other things, that China’s on­go­ing anti-cor­rup­tion cam­paign in­di­cated vul­ner­a­bil­ity and eco­nomic weak­ness that put it on the verge of a gov­ern­men­tal down­fall.

David Lamp­ton, Ge­orge and Sadie Hy­man Pro­fes­sor of China Stud­ies at the Johns Hop­kins School of Ad­vanced In­ter­na­tional Stud­ies, dis­puted the ar­ti­cle at a panel dis­cus­sion on China’s anti-cor­rup­tion cam­paign in Wash­ing­ton on Tues­day.

“I don’t agree with Sham­baugh’s char­ac­ter­i­za­tions in the ar­ti­cle”, said Lamp­ton, for­mer pres­i­dent of the Na­tional Com­mit­tee on United StatesChina Re­la­tions. “We need to be mod­est about what we know and don’t know about eco­nomic and po­lit­i­cal de­vel­op­ments in China, and on mak­ing pre­dic­tions.”

Amid such un­cer­tain­ties, “very dif­fer­ent pre­dic­tions pre­cisely” may be heard, he said, adding that it de­pended on China’s mid­dle class’ ac­cep­tance of the on­go­ing cam­paign, since China’s open­ing up and re­form poli­cies since 1979 have made its so­ci­ety more “em­pow­ered”.

Bruce Dick­son, direc­tor of the Sigur Cen­ter for Asian Stud­ies and a pro­fes­sor of po­lit­i­cal science and in­ter­na­tional af­fairs at GWU, said China’s “nim­ble” adap­ta­tion kept the public sat­is­fied.

“I think the Party has been more adapt­able than peo­ple al­ready give it credit for,” Dick­son said. “And it is in a good place by get­ting peo­ple’s ex­pec­ta­tions to slow down."

De­spite “the frus­tra­tion with cor­rup­tion, peo­ple tend to be op­ti­mistic about the fu­ture, with ex­pec­ta­tions of their in­comes con­tin­u­ing to rise”, which in turn meets the gov­ern­ment’s ex­pec­ta­tions, Dick­son said.

Chi Wang, pres­i­dent and chair of the US-China Pol­icy Foun­da­tion, said China should con­tinue to crack down on bribery and wrong­do­ing.

A for­mer head of the China sec­tion at the Li­brary of Congress, Wang said that if the anti-graft com­mit­ment weren’t car­ried out in a dy­namic mode, it would harm the roots and fu­ture of China as well, and all the Chi­nese over­seas who are look­ing for­ward to a bet­ter China.

“China re­ally needs Pres­i­dent Xi’s idea of get­ting rid of cor­rup­tion through­out China un­der the legal sys­tem,” he said. “This is the No 1 pri­or­ity.”

Writ­ing in Forbes, Stephen Harner, who lived in China for 20 years, said he “ab­so­lutely re­jects” Sham­baugh’s con­clu­sions, which he called “as­ton­ish­ingly ill-in­formed”.

“The per­va­sive sense of dra­matic change is, I have found, com­bined in al­most all Chi­nese minds with sat­is­fac­tion and con­fi­dence that the change is ur­gently needed — in­deed long over­due — and in the right di­rec­tion,” Harner wrote in an ed­i­to­rial pub­lished on March 10.

China’s “res­o­lute, fo­cused ap­proach to break down the great­est bar­rier to devel­op­ment” will help it suc­cess­fully “exit” or at least avoid the “sys­tem­atic traps” in its eco­nomic devel­op­ment path, and will emerge stronger, more pros­per­ous, and more glob­ally en­gaged and com­pet­i­tive, he said.

Fu Ying, spokes­woman of the third ses­sion of the 12th Na­tional Peo­ple’s Congress, said at a press con­fer­ence on March 4 that “China would fur­ther build its in­sti­tu­tional mech­a­nism to crack down on cor­rup­tion”.

The Chi­nese Com­mu­nist Party vowed in 2012 to firmly fight cor­rup­tion in the next five years and has brought down about 56 high-rank­ing gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials and more than 180,000 low-rank­ing of­fi­cials since then. Sheng Yang in Wash­ing­ton con­trib­uted to this story.

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