China must listen to WenWhat is happening in Zhongnanhai, the central headquarters of the Communist Party and the State Council of China? Just one day after China’s Premier Wen Jiabao warned that without political reforms, tragedies such as the Cultural Revolution could still happen, Bo Xilai, the head of the Chongqing Municipal Party Committee, suddenly resigned from his post. China analysts predict that a full-fledged power struggle has just begun ahead of the scheduled transfer of power at the Communist Party Congress in October.
Since Bo Xilai’s subordinate, Wang Lijun, took refuge in the U.S. Consulate in an unprecedented attempt to defect to the United States, China experts’ attention has been focused on what fate awaits Bo. A member of the “princelings” - a group of privileged children of the revolutionary cadres of the Communist Party - Bo took the lead in a socialist cultural revolution, including a movement to sing Red Songs, which are reminiscent of the Cultural Revolution in 1960s and 70s. His abrupt departure from power seems to be related to Wen’s stern warning at the annual session of the Chinese People’s Congress that ended Wednesday.
China is experiencing this internal conflict primarily because of the ever-widening gap of wealth between the haves and have-nots and between those in the coastal and inland areas, not to mention the rampant corruption among officials and civilians. In a rare televised press conference, Wen underscored the urgent need for political reform by pronouncing that without it, China cannot bring about economic reform and could lose all of its previous achievements.
His remarks are a manifestation of the sense of crisis. Unless Beijing divides the political power now concentrated on the Communist Party and revamps the party and government systems toward intensified monitoring - and restraint - of the government by the people, it will inevitably invite a historical retrogression to an era similar to the Cultural Revolution.
The imbalance between the economy and politics in China has reached a critical moment. The old political regime, established before the days of Deng Xiaping’s reform and opening, can hardly settle the public uproar. The outmoded political system could possibly put the brakes on the country’s dazzling economic growth as well. China’s stable development is not its problem alone, as it is tied to the interests of the world. Chinese leaders must listen carefully to the warnings of Wen, regardless of the faction to which they belong.