Elite China think-tank issues political reform blueprint
Mon Feb 18, 2008 9:27pm EST
By Chris Buckley
BEIJING (Reuters) - China risks dangerous instability unless it embraces democratic reforms to limit the power of the ruling Communist Party, foster competitive voting and rein in censors, the Party's top think-tank has warned in a new report.
The "comprehensive political system reform plan" by scholars at the Central Party School in Beijing argues for steady liberalization that its authors say can build a "modern civil society" by 2020 and "mature democracy and rule of law" in later decades.
The cost of delaying this course could be economic disarray and worsening corruption and public discontent, they write in "Storming the Fortress: A Research Report on China 's Political System Reform after the 17th Party Congress".
"Citizens' steadily rising democratic consciousness and the grave corruption among Party and government officials make it increasing urgent to press ahead with demands for political system reform," the report states. "The backwardness of the political system is affecting economic development."
The report was finished in October, just after the Party's twice-a-decade congress ended and gave President Hu Jintao five more years as party chief. But it is only now appearing in some Beijing bookstores.
This is no manifesto for outright democracy. The authors say the Party must keep overall control and "elite" decision-making will help China achieve lasting economic prosperity by pushing past obstacles to economic reform.
But the 366-page report give a strikingly detailed blueprint of how some elite advisers see political relaxation unfolding, with three phases of reform in the next 12 years, including restricting the Party's powers and expanding the rights of citizens, reporters, religious believers and lawmakers.
"Until now political reform has been scattered and inconsequential," Wang Guixiu, a professor at the Party School not involved in the study, told Reuters. "Real political reform needs a substantive plan of action, and there are some scholars and officials who believe that's what is needed now."
Full text of the Reuters report can be found at http://docs.google.com/Doc?id=dcfd6fxz_374d84s9zhh.
Related report in the Chinese language can be found at http://docs.google.com/Doc?id=dcfd6fxz_378d48xgkcg
An account of my visit to the Central Party School in September 2007 can be found here: http://charlesburton.blogspot.com/2007/10/engaging-on-human-rights-at-central.html