China Reform Agency To Boost Xi Jinping's Personal Power

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Xi Jinping (C) raises his glass during the 64th National Day reception at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, Sept. 30, 2013.

China's much-vaunted reform program is more likely to lead to a tightening of President Xi Jinping's grip on power in the coming year than to a more constitutional form of government or freer markets, analysts said.

Xi told the nation in his New Year address via state media that the ruling Chinese Communist Party had  drawn a "grand blueprint for the country's future development," referring to the broadest economic reforms since the 1990s which were spelled out at the party's Central Committee’s Third Plenum in November.

The changes include loosening the one-child policy, increasing property rights for farmers and encouraging private investment in more industries.

"In 2014, we are expected to make new strides on the road of reform," Xi said in the address via state broadcasters.

Xi, who recently took over the task of steering the "working group" that will implement reforms from his premier Li Keqiang, appears to be moving to consolidate his personal power after assuming the presidency in March 2013, analysts said.

"They are just using the name 'reform' to set up another executive body containing a core of the central leadership, over and above the existing framework," Sweden-based current affairs commentator Li Yuanyue said.

"This will help Xi Jinping to consolidate his individual political power, and has nothing to do with reform."

Guide changes

The official Xinhua News Agency announced on Dec. 30 that Xi will head a reform leading group to guide changes agreed to at the Third Plenum.

But analysts said the "reforms" are still the instrument of an authoritarian regime that plans and controls every aspect of people's lives.

"I think what Xi's assumption of [this role] tells us is that the past 30 years of economic reform has been entirely a product of the party," said Beijing-based rights lawyer Chen Yongmiao, who edits the Hougaige website on reform.

"All of it has been an exercise organized by Chinese Communist Party leaders, and nothing to do with reform in the direction of freedom and democracy."

"It doesn't matter whether they are economic or other kinds of reform; they are all in line with party interests," he said.

Constitutional form of government

Chinese journalist Shi Tao, who was released last year after being sentenced to 10 years' imprisonment for "revealing state secrets," said he still hoped to work for a more constitutional form of government in China.

"I genuinely hope that our country can do better when it comes to democracy, freedom and the rule of law," said Shi, who was released 15 months ahead of schedule on Aug. 23.

"We really must face up to the reality that we live in."

Neglecting responsibility

Meanwhile, veteran democracy activist Wei Jingsheng, who now lives in the United States, hit out at Xi's administration for neglecting its responsibility to the Chinese people.

"The people are not sheep; they're not God's sheep and they're not the government's sheep," Wei said in a recent commentary broadcast on RFA's Mandarin Service.

"There should be a contractual relationship between the people and the government, which has its source in the constitution and the rule of law," said Wei, who served a total of 18 years in Chinese prisons for
"counterrevolutionary" activities before being released overseas on medical parole.

"The current government is in breach of that contract...and so society is now on the edge of collapse...on the even of a huge upheaval," he warned.

Reported by Wen Jian for RFA's Mandarin Service, and by Bi Zimo for the Cantonese Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.


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