Why the CPC’s third plenary session is important – Insight article

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President Xi Jinping in the center of local officials and activists in Tayuanzhuang Village

Observers believe that an upcoming meeting of the Communist Party of China in November will follow Party tradition and be a springboard for major national reform.

In a meeting last Tuesday, the Political Bureau of CPC Central Committee decided that the Third Plenary Session of the 18th CPC Central Committee will be held in November in Beijing to discuss major issues concerning comprehensive reform.

The meeting comes as China faces major economic and social challenges. It will, to some extent, determine the direction of reform of the new leadership.

On Tuesday, the 25-member Political Bureau emphasized the importance of reform and how it concerns the overall work of the Party and the government.

“There is no way for China to reverse or even stop the process,” it said, adding that reform and opening up have “only a progressive tense, no perfect tense…”

The meeting proposed innovation in theory, system, science, technology and culture with wholescale reform across the board.

“Besides the economic sector, the Third Plenary Session will promote administrative reform, ” Chi Fulin, director of the China Institute for Reform and Development, added…

The CPC has a tradition of proposing key changes in third plenary sessions since 1978 when the third plenary session of the 11th CPC Central Committee decided to implement reform and opening up, ending decades of seclusion.

The third plenum of the 14th CPC Central Committee in 1993 endorsed the socialist market economy, paving the way for China’s economic takeoff in the subsequent two decades.

The political economy of China is still hindered by a tradition of corruption rooted in centuries. No matter the economic structure, societies free of Protestant moralizing often need a few decades of an ethics injection. Fortunately, part of being a self-perfecting species is that laws and regulations can not only be passed – they can be enforced.

Yes, that’s a two-way street. We’ve witnessed enough of that in the United States. Between so-called conservatives lifting regulations and oversight from mortgage bankers to cutting taxes for the wealthiest, lobbyists and Congress in concert reintroduced a level of corruption to American governance not seen in decades. That, too, can be turned around.

I expect Chinese politicians to get into reform a lot faster than we shall here in the States. They are not a nation as divided politically as we are. Their officials could deal better with the hindrance of tradition than the gutless wonders in Congress. And, honestly, I think they are more strongly motivated by the pressures of growing their economy than the class of corporate lawyers and pimps our government attracts, nowadays.

I could be wrong, of course. Not for the first time. 🙂

China rushes to become an urban nation at breakneck speed

Every few minutes another car brakes sharply as it reaches Tangbaguan on Guiyang’s new ring road. Another driver does a double-take. The dual carriageway ends abruptly in a narrow dirt track twisting downwards through heaps of rubble.

The city is eating hungrily into the hillsides, swallowing up maize fields and rice terraces in loops of tarmac and towers of concrete and glass. But the pace of change is so rapid, the transition so sharp, that its citizens are increasingly bewildered by their surroundings. Some, like the migrant workers building the roads, are new to city life. Others no longer recognise their hometown as it sprawls across the land.

This is the year China finally became an urban nation. In April the census revealed that 49.7% of its 1.34 billion population was living in cities, compared with around a fifth as economic reforms got off the ground in 1982. By now, China’s urbanites outnumber their country cousins. “The process they have been going through over three decades took four or five decades in Japan and [South] Korea and 100 years in the west,” says Edward Leman, whose Chreod consultancy has advised numerous Chinese cities on development.

It is not only the extraordinary speed that is “unprecedented and unparalleled”, says Prof Paul James of the Global Cities Institute at RMIT University in Melbourne. “It represents the most managed process of urbanisation in human history. The state is involved in every way. It manages the building of new cities. It regulates the housing of internally displaced people. It responds actively and sometimes oppressively to new waves of squatters.”

The new five-year plan pushes urbanisation even further, as the government seeks to raise living standards and promote development in the poorer central and western regions. A hard landing for the economy could slow this process – local government debt is a particular worry – but will not stop it…

And don’t hold your breath expecting a hard landing.

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