China Leadership Monitor

Political Reform Was Never on the Agenda

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

In August 2010 Premier Wen Jiabao went to the Shenzhen Special Economic Zone, which was approaching the celebration of its 30th anniversary, and gave a speech that, among other things, called for political reform. What exactly Wen meant by his remarks, and whether he differed significantly from General Secretary Hu Jintao, who gave an official and less enthusiastic address in Shenzhen two weeks later, have become topics of intense media speculation. Whatever distance may or may not lie between the general secretary and his premier, it is safe to assume that Wen was not crossing swords with Hu and that significant political reform—meaning reform that would challenge the Chinese Communist Party’s monopoly on power—was never on the agenda. There is, on the contrary, good evidence that the CCP is continuing on a trajectory of limited, inner-party “democracy” that it set on some time ago.