I forgot to post this from the just-finished National People’s Congress, or rather from Premier Wen Jiabao’s Press Conference afterwards. A pretty impressive turn out, I thought, though the guy next to me said he was there reporting for the Inner Mongolian Yurt Builders Weekly…or was it the Hothot Times?
Anyway, it struck me strongly that the question Wen spent the most time on was about democratic reform, a follow up on an article he wrote in the People’s Daily in February in which he appeared to suggest that it would be a century before China was ready for democracy. It was noticeable that he not only spent over ten minutes answering (essentially affirming that, while he hadn’t said it would definitely be 100 years, it would be a “long historical period,” which pretty much means the same thing, ie so long from now that it’s not really relevant) and then came back to it again for further elucidation without being prompted. The whole issue of political reform is evidently very much on his mind and that of other senior leaders who are presumably trying to figure out how they can keep the Communist Party in power and fend off demands for democracy from an increasingly assertive middle class. Actually, I think they could have a good chance of pulling it off. If carefully handled, the middle classes can be persuaded that it’s in their interest to have efficient, non-corrupt mandarins managing the country and that an onrush of democracy would actually cause them no end of bother as the unwashed masses asserted their rights and elected politicians who worried about them and not the privileged urban types. in short, the Singapore model. The only catch of course is the “non-corrupt” bit. tricky….