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Briefing3_promoting a Harmonious Society to Cope With

Briefing3_promoting a Harmonious Society to Cope With

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China Policy Institute
Briefing Series – Issue 3CHINA POLITICAL REVIEW 2005:PROMOTING A HARMONIOUS SOCIETY TO COPE WITHA CRISIS OF GOVERNANCE
by Yongnian Zheng, Zhengxu Wang & Liang Fook Lye
© Copyright China Policy InstituteDecember 2005
China HouseUniversity of NottinghamUniversity ParkNottingham NG7 2RDUnited KingdomTel: +44 (0)115 846 7769Fax: +44 (0)115 846 7900Email:CPI@nottingham.ac.ukWebsite:www.nottingham.ac.uk/china-policy-institute
The China Policy Institute was set up to analyse critical policy challenges faced by China in itsrapid development. Its goals are to help expand the knowledge and understanding of contemporary China in Britain, to help build a more informed dialogue between China and the UKand to contribute to government and business strategies.
 
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Summary
1. In 2005, Hu Jintao emerged as having full control of China’s domestic andforeign policies. Hu has quickly consolidated his power to become the “core” of the leadership, with Premier Wen Jiabao and Vice President ZengQinghong as his important lieutenants.2. In line with Hu’s vision of a “harmonious society”, the Fifth Plenum of theCommunist Party Central Committee in November 2005 approved a seriesof recommendations for the 11
th
Five-Year Plan that aims to achievebalanced and sustainable development. The Party will continue to deliversocial goods to stay relevant to the people.3. To meet the challenges of governance, the Party embarked on a campaignto improve the competence of its members and address the moralproblems within its ranks. In the face of the many social problems, somecircles within the Party want to revive Marxism to bring it in line with therealities of a market economy.4. The leadership has tightened control over societal elements that coulddestabilize society, such as intellectuals. Incidents of social unrest arebeing carefully handled and contained at the localities. Foreign elementsthat could promote regime change in China are closely watched.5. Despite some internal debate, Hu went ahead with the ceremony tocommemorate the 90
th
anniversary of the birth of Hu Yaobang, the latereformist leader. This left open the question of political liberalization in thefuture.6. In 2006, the leadership will continue to improve the lot of the people andaddress social grievances, while cracking down on potentially destabilizingelements. Local leaders will be urged to handle potentially explosive issueswith care, such as land evictions and peasant petitions, and avoid high-handed measures.7. Hu is likely to promote more of his supporters into powerful positions. TheParty centre under his leadership will step up efforts to groom the 5
th
generation leadership that will succeed the current leadership in 2012.8. The ups-and-downs that characterize the Sino-US relationship willcontinue while Sino-Japan ties will remain cool. Cross-straits ties mayfurther improve as the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Partyremains under pressure to adjust its stance. For Hong Kong, Beijing islikely to stick to incremental political liberalization.
 
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China Political Review 2005:Promoting a Harmonious Society to Cope with a Crisis of Governance
By Yongnian Zheng, Zhengxu Wang and Liang Fook Lye*
 Hu Jintao Fully-in-Charge
1.1 At first glance, the year 2005 appears to have been politically uneventfulfor China. In past years, major events took place such as the leadershipsuccession in 2002, the SARS epidemic and its political repercussions in2003, and Hu Jintao’s assumption of the Chairmanship of the CentralMilitary Commission (CMC) in 2004. No events of similar significance tookplace this year. Even on the economic front, the regime’s effort incurtailing economic overheating seems to be on the right track. This year,the economy is expected to grow by 9.4%, compared to 9.5% a yearbefore.
1
1.2 Yet, beneath the veneer of stable economic growth and politicaltranquility, China faces simmering social grievances arising from peasantdiscontent, corruption and government abuse of power, widening incomeand regional disparities, and environmental degradation. For example, inJuly 2005, the Standing Committee of the Chinese People's PoliticalConsultative Conference (CPPCC) pointed to the widening income gap as"the root cause of disharmony".
2
Official statistics show that the number of incidents of popular unrest in 2004 jumped to 74,000 from 58,000 in 2003and 10,000 in 1994.
3
1.3 Moreover, the frequent coal mining disasters across the country and therecent contamination of the Songhua River in China’s Northeast due to anexplosion at a chemical plant are exemplary of the increasingly damagingeffects of the blind focus on economic growth. Besides raising questionsabout proper governance at the local level, these mishaps underscore thechallenges faced by the central government in encouraging local leaders tolook beyond GDP growth figures.1.4 At the
Zhongnanhai 
palace complex, Hu’s effort to consolidate power hascontinued apace. Hu has emerged dominant as the top leader of the Partyand the State. In achieving this, he has established a viable workingrelationship with Premier Wen Jiabao, who handles the dailyadministration of the country. Most notably, Vice President ZengQinghong, who is Jiang Zemin’s protégé and was previously seen as acontender for power against Hu, has rallied behind him.
4
1.5 Within the Party, Hu has made a concerted effort to enhance its governingcapacity. Early this year, a campaign was launched to “maintain theadvanced nature” of the Party (
保持党的先进性
). Party members, from the
* Yongnian Zheng is Professor and Head of Research at the China Policy Institute of the University of Nottingham; Zhengxu Wang is Visiting Research Fellow at the East Asian Institute (EAI) of theNational University of Singapore; and, Liang Fook Lye is Research Officer at the East Asian Institute.The authors are grateful to John Wong and Richard Pascoe for their valuable comments on the draft.
1
 “China’s economy to grow by 9.4 points this year”,
China Daily 
, 5 December 2005.
2
 “China warns gap between rich, poor is feeding unrest”,
The Washington Post 
, 22 September 2005.
3
 “The cauldron boils; protests in China”,
The Economist 
, 1 October 2005.
4
Hu’s consolidation of power is rapid by Chinese standards. His immediate predecessor, Jiang Zemin,is widely regarded to have only consolidated his power eight years after he became General Secretaryin 1989. Before that, Zhao Ziyang (1987-1989) and Hu Yaobang (1982-1987) only managed to holdon to the post of General Secretary for two years and five years respectively.

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