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Aug 31, 2010

China: not nearly as capitalist as you think.

Aug 23, 2010

Special Political Zone, with vague details

From the "press release" version of the political reform announcement


Not only must we continue reforming the economic system, we must also engage in reform of the political system. Without the security brought about by political reforms, the fruits of the economic reforms [of the last three decades] will slip through our hands and the goal of achieving modernization will be impossible to reach.

We must protect the people's right to democracy and their legal rights & interests; we must, on the largest scale, mobilize and organize the people to manage the country's affairs and economic, social and cultural development, in accordance with the law; we must solve the systematic problem of overly-concentrated, unrestricted power; we must create [a space] for people to, with certain restrictions, criticize and oversee the government, in order to resolutely punish & control corruption; we must build a fair and just society, and must especially protect the impartiality of the justice system; we must place importance on protecting and helping the disadvantaged; We must provide the people with a sense of safety in their lives, and they will have confidence in the country's development.

I also learned that these reforms will include elections for candidates in senior political positions, but the nominating process will of course be dominated by the Party, and the actually voting will be done by the municipal party committee after nominees have been vetted by the powerful organization department (also a wing of the party, not the government).

Aug 22, 2010

Special Political Zone

Word has it that Beijing intends to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Shenzhen's "Special Economic Zone" status by turning it into a "Special Political Zone" (Reuters article here).

What does that entail? Most articles I found were short on specifics, but "like Singapore, like Hong Kong" is a common refrain. It seems the idea is to figure out how to get a more effective and less corrupt administration rolling.

The article above takes as an example a 2003 Shenzhen policy of dividing responsibilities for formulating policy, executing it and maintaining oversight among three different groups [update: that plan was abandoned because the press "misunderstood" it as a checks and balances system]. The reforms seem likely to focus on this "practical" end of improving policy execution without too greatly increasing public oversight or elections.

This seems to be part of an overall pattern of stepping up "intra-party democracy" and "Chinese style democracy" slogans.

We'll see what, if anything, actually happens. But I would like to speak to the general wisdom of undergoing political reforms from a position of strength. I hope for the best.

Aug 3, 2010

Rumors abound

I won't go into the rumors circulating within the local and Chinese media about the odds of an unexpectedly early "withdrawal" of Chinese missiles aimed at Taiwan. Someone else can cover that.

I'll even leave the fascinating possibility of unification of Chinese character education in Taiwan and China to someone else.

What I really want to focus on today is Vice Chair of ARATS, Zhang Mingqing (張銘清), who is apparently in Taiwan again with much less fan fair than his first visit (video below).

In any case, on this visit to Taiwan, Zhang was a speaker at the 15th Conference on Chinese Scientific Modernization (中國現代化學術研討會). The conference is hosted by the very pro-"Greater China" Academic Foundation for Advancing Chinese Modernization (促進中國現代化學術研究基金會).

Zhang spoke words he meant to show brotherly affection but which, in my mind, mask a threat. As he put it, the two sides of the Strait have in the past two years already forged a common destiny based on blood ties. The ECFA, he said, is aimed at promoting the common interest of the Zhonghua Minzu, and the next and most urgent step is to establish a feeling of recognition about Taiwan and China's common destiny.


Probably three or four years ago a business savvy, light-blue voter I knew (with a family business in China) sat through a less-than-sober rant of mine about the importance of preventing Taiwan from becoming overly economically intertwined with China. Otherwise, I railed, Taiwan would have great trouble maintaining its de facto political independence.

She listened politely and responded quietly and much more soberly. "It is probably already too late to do anything about that," she said, and those words shook me then, because they forced me to consider a possibility I had always preferred to ignore or dismiss.

Zhang's words shake me now.