Blocking ‘peaceful evolution’ will lead to instability in China
Wei Jingsheng, one of China’s most prominent dissidents exiled abroad, discusses changes within the Chinese Communist party, possibilities for political and economic reform, the impact of Liu Xiaobo's Nobel Peace Prize, and the West's deference to China.
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Nathan Gardels: The Communist Party’s Central Committee has just completed its plenary session. What is the significance of the promotion of Xi Jinping, the vice president? Was there anything notable in this meeting that the world ought to be paying attention to?
Wei Jingsheng: By naming Xi Jinping as vice chairman of the Central Military Commission, the party leaders have put him in line to succeed Secretary-General (of the Communist Party) Hu Jintao. What does it mean? It indicates the internal fight within the party has been relaxed a little.
Xi Jinping was mayor of Xiamen (from 1985 to 1988) and worked his way up to governor of Fujian (until 2002), then party secretary of Zhejiang Province (until 2007), before he became party secretary of Shanghai. All these places are in the economically booming coastal region. In 2009, he was also in charge of an internal party group that sought to suppress liberal intellectuals and nongovernment organizations as well as further restrict Internet access on sensitive political topics.
Hardline economic policy toward US
The second major issue of the plenum had to do with the economic development plan running up against US pressure on China to let its currency appreciate and the related risk of trade wars because of China’s huge surplus.
What is little understood outside China is that while there are separate factions in the Communist Party with respect to political reform – the reformists and the hardliners – both factions are in agreement on economic issues. Both factions are hardliners with respect to economic policy toward the US.
Despite what some commentators in the US believe, the reformist political faction around Premier Wen Jiabao, including some of China’s top billionaires, wants to protect their economic interests and thus strongly resist the appreciation of China’s currency. In this respect, they are supported by the hardliners against political reform around Party Secretary and Chinese President Hu Jintao, who also want to protect their vested interests.