Event ReportsPublished on Apr 17, 2018
Chinese reforms to make government and party more effective: Consul General

China’s Consul General in Kolkata, Ma Zhanwu, has described the changes being undertaken post 19th Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) as the re-ordering of the government and the party to make them more effective and responsive to the needs and demands of today’s  Chinese society post four decades of reform.

The simultaneous integration and elimination of dozens of central committees, reformation of mass organisations, creation of new ministries like the ministry for emergency management all aim to provide the party with a revitalized  role in Chinese society and guide China towards national rejuvenation, Ma said while speaking on ‘Post 19th CPC, Institutional changes in PRC’ at Observer Research Foundation, Kolkata, on 12 April.

While the Consul General elaborated the technical aspects of the constitutional reforms, Dr. Manoj Joshi, Distinguished Fellow, ORF, New Delhi and the discussant on the theme talked about the politics of these changes.

In  his introductory remarks setting the theme of the day, Ashok Dhar, Director, ORF Kolkata, underscored the event’s intent of departing from the usual India-China discourse  on  border etc to understand the rationale behind the momentous changes occurring in today’s China.

Introductory comments by Prof. Rakhahari Chatterji , Adviser, ORF Kolkata offered the gathering some issues with regard to China’s future foreign policy that the institutional changes are likely to trigger.

Joshi, while agreeing with Ma’s explanation on the reforms, pointed out that these sweeping government restructuring, however, has placed President Xi Jingping in direct control over levers of power which he will use to push further marketisation of Chinese economy. He argued that the political uncertainty Xi has created by the abolition of the term limit is aimed towards reducing political resistance to the reforms, which Xi and his colleagues consider absolutely necessary for the realisation of the Chinese Dream.

Admittedly, the reforms were drastic and unprecedented,  as both speakers noted.

According to Ma, the constitutional reforms represent the spirit of the 19th CPC which had  a rich agenda and determination to produce strong results. Joshi, on the other hand, termed the reforms as a brake on plans for separation of the government and the party.

The session highlighted two important aspects  of the institutional reforms:  factors driving the institutional reforms and nature of these changes.   Ma pointed out that there has been a shift in principal contradiction in Chinese society today, that is,  shift from economic under-development to growth imbalances  and this shift is one of the key drivers of the reforms. He  reiterated the CPC’s s commitment towards  eradicating poverty in inner regions of China by 2020 and Joshi highlighted  Chinese aspirations for a better quality of life and physical environment.

Commenting on the nature of the changes Joshi argued that the proposed reforms are intended to provide the Chinese Communist Party with structures and institutions suitable for dealing with the challenges of the new era. Similar sentiment was echoed in Ma’s statements when at one point he emphatically mentioned  that to enable the agencies function efficiently the reforms have extended enormous enforcement powers to their personnel. However, the powers are balanced by heavy obligations which will continue even after end of an individual’s office term.

In the Q and A session, some participants raised the issue of OBOR and India’s concerns with  the CPEC.  Joshi opined that India despite having legitimate  concern over CPEC should not boycott OBOR in totality. India should attach itself to areas from which it can reap economic benefits.

When one of the participants questioned the Consul General whether in future China would  likely appear more democratic than it was now, the Consul General replied that the media and Chinese citizens enjoy freedom of expression with few restrictions.  Also,  the Department of Propaganda is being reformed.

Another participant commented that the centralised leadership of Xi might create a leadership vacuum in future, to which Joshi responded by saying that this uncertainty was  just a political  strategy and Ma asserted that the transparent process of decision making would  groom the future leaders of China.

The report was compiled by Mayuri Banerjee, Research Assistant, ORF Kolkata

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