Premier warns of specter of tur­moil

Calls for po­lit­i­cal re­form to pro­tect pros­per­ity in com­ing lead­er­ship change

The Washington Times Daily - - World - BY CHARLES HUTZLER

BEI­JING | China’s premier warned Wed­nes­day that ru­inous tur­moil that en­gulfed China in the past could re-emerge un­less the coun­try tack­les po­lit­i­cal re­forms, and he re­buked a pop­ulist fel­low leader over a scan­dal that brought in­fight­ing among of­fi­cials into public view.

In a three-hour news con­fer­ence, Wen Ji­abao re­newed a call for un­spec­i­fied po­lit­i­cal re­forms, par­tic­u­larly of the Com­mu­nist Party lead­er­ship, say­ing that with­out them China’s hard-won pros­per­ity might fiz­zle.

No demo­cratic fire­brand, Mr. Wen has is­sued sim­i­larly vague pleas be­fore — and be­come a pop­u­lar if lone voice among se­nior lead­ers by do­ing so. The news con­fer­ence was the 69-year-old leader’s last sched­uled brief­ing be­fore he steps down in a year af­ter a decade in of­fice.

He said he was “seized by a strong sense of re­spon­si­bil­ity” to speak out and re­ferred re­peat­edly to the judg­ment of his­tory. Cor­rup­tion, the rich-poor gap and plum­met­ing gov­ern­ment cred­i­bil­ity that be­set China re­quire in­sti­tu­tional changes, he said.

To cap his plea, he made rare men­tion of the Cul­tural Rev­o­lu­tion, 10 years of fac­tional bat­tles and rad­i­cal egal­i­tar­i­an­ism that spi­raled into vi­o­lence in which mil­lions were per­se­cuted and many re­for­m­minded lead­ers were jailed, sent into in­ter­nal ex­ile or left to die.

“With­out suc­cess­ful po­lit­i­cal re­form, it is im­pos­si­ble for us to fully in­sti­tute eco­nomic sys­tem re­form. The gains we have made in this area may also be lost,” Mr. Wen told re­porters in the Great Hall of the Peo­ple.

“New prob­lems that have cropped up in China’s so­ci­ety will not be fun­da­men­tally re­solved, and such his­tor­i­cal tragedies as the Cul­tural Rev­o­lu­tion may hap­pen again.”

The ref­er­ences to the past and the re­flec­tive tone turned the premier’s news con­fer­ence into some­thing of a swan song for the most pop­u­lar mem­ber of the usu­ally re­mote lead­er­ship.

As the No. 3 of­fi­cial in the party lead­er­ship, who is pri­mar­ily re­spon­si­ble for the econ­omy, Mr. Wen fielded a range of ques­tions, from lo­cal gov­ern­ment debt to cur­rency re­form.

He of­fered Chi­nese fund­ing of U.S. in­fra­struc­ture projects to cre­ate Amer­i­can jobs and re­bal­ance lop­sided eco­nomic ties with a cru­cial trad­ing part­ner. He sidestepped a ques­tion ask­ing his views of the demo­cratic up­ris­ings in parts of the Arab world.

Mr. Wen, Pres­i­dent Hu Jin­tao and most of the lead­er­ship are step­ping down to hew to un­writ­ten rules of suc­ces­sion and make way for younger lead­ers. The turnover al­ways in­vites di­vi­sive in­fight­ing that the party prefers to keep un­der wraps.

That im­age of unity was rup­tured last month by the cashier­ing of a top of­fi­cial in the megac­ity of Chongqing who fled overnight to a U.S. con­sulate, re­port­edly to seek po­lit­i­cal asy­lum.

Asked about Deputy Mayor Wang Li­jun’s still un­ex­plained fall, Mr. Wen is­sued the harsh­est crit­i­cism to date of Chongqing party chief Bo Xi­lai, per­haps sig­nal­ing the once-ris­ing star is un­likely to be pro­moted to the up­per­most ranks of power.

“The cur­rent party com­mit­tee and the gov­ern­ment of Chongqing must se­ri­ously re­flect on the Wang Li­jun in­ci­dent and learn lessons from this in­ci­dent,” Mr. Wen said.

While not men­tion­ing Mr. Bo by name, Mr. Wen again delved into the past, say­ing the in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the scan­dal “should be able to stand the test of the law and his­tory.”

He re­called the tor­tu­ous di­ver­sions into po­lit­i­cal cam­paigns that side­tracked China’s climb from poverty to world power. The com­ments seemed a swipe at Mr. Bo, who has pro­moted mass sin­ga­longs of com­mu­nist an­thems and other “red” cul­ture that some see as wor­ri­some pref­er­ence of the ex­treme pol­i­tics of the past.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.