Edited by Brian Bridges and Lok Sang Ho
Chapter 4: Political Reform and Democratization in China under the Leadership of Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao
Yiu-chung Wong INTRODUCTION Political reform is closely related to democratization. In the context of Chinese politics, they are almost equivalent. However, the Chinese leadership uses another term, namely ‘political structural reform’, which overlaps but is not identical with the concept of ‘political reform’. This chapter attempts to examine political reform under the leadership of Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao, and the political context in which their reform is implemented. The degree and extent of political reform are a key indicator of the state of governance in contemporary China. The chapter covers three general themes. The first explains the concept of political reform and its evolution; the second analyses the era preceding the Hu–Wen leadership and outlines the legacy of Jiang Zemin; and finally the political reform since Hu and Wen became the general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and premier of the State Council in 2002 and 2003 respectively is discussed. The prospects for democratization in China will be assessed in the light of the influential views developed by Gordon Chang (2001) and Bruce Gilley (2004). THE ASCENDANCE OF HU JINTAO AND WEN JIABAO Hu was elected as the last member of the Standing Committee (SC) of the CCP’s Politburo in the Fourteenth CCP Congress in 1992. He was then also the youngest member among seven members, aged 49. It was widely believed that Song Ping, the veteran SC Politburo member, had strongly recommended Hu to Deng Xiaoping, who had pondered the succession crisis in the aftermath...
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