'The Market Has Yet to Be Formed'

By Bao Tong
china-plenum-security-nov-2013.jpg Police and plainclothes security personnel stand guard outside the Jingxi Hotel, the site of the Central Committee's Third Plenum, in Beijing, Nov. 11, 2013.

"We must accelerate the creation of independent enterprise and fair competition, consumer freedom of choice, the free movement of goods and crucial factors, and a level playing field for exchanges in a modern market system."

A very important statement from the third plenum communique. Such a system would undoubtedly be a market system that recognizes universal values. To suggest such a thing shows that our Chinese characteristics must be developing in the direction of universal values. This is real reform, well-conceived.

The reason [the communique] outlines a modern market system is that China doesn't yet have one, and still needs to form one. I am guessing that this is appropriate, pragmatic, and with no self-deception involved.

The market cannot yet play a decisive role in China's economic life, because it has yet to be formed. Currently, it isn't the market that plays a decisive role in economic life, but the power of the [ruling] political party.

Such supreme power to decide, manipulate, control and dominate economic life lies at the crux of the Chinese economy. It lies at the crux of the whole of Chinese society.

No reform that denied [this reality] could be considered complete, still less deep. It probably wouldn't even be worthy of the name reform.

No 'decision document'

Therefore I think that this idea of the third plenum's is a very good one. Its weakness lies in the fact that the authors of the communique didn't adopt an analytical method, and just strung together a bunch of fashionable words, without answering any of the large number of important questions surrounding total and in-depth reforms. It comes across as obscure, ambiguous and boring, and is very hard to understand.

The communique is a piece of news copy. We are still waiting for the publication of the decision that lies behind it. If the communique hasn't answered our questions, lets hope that we will find the answers in the decision document.

Luckily, as we saw with the old third plenum 35 years ago, which is still in living memory, party communiques don't constitute a binding contract for officials or citizens. The communique that was released back then called on "the People's Communes [to] resolutely implement the three collective ownerships, team-based systems and maintain lasting stability."

But they couldn't mandate public opinion, nor stop history from happening, and the household responsibility system took hold like wildfire around the country, and the People's Communes fell apart.

Only this sort of personal experience on the part of ordinary citizens can promote social progress.

Translated by Luisetta Mudie.

Bao Tong, political aide to the late ousted premier Zhao Ziyang, is currently under house arrest at his home in Beijing.


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