Wen Will the Time Come?

By Andrew Boyce, BASC Research Assistant

Wen Jiabao

Wen Jiabao is at it again. At the recent World Economic Forum meeting of business leaders in the Chinese city of Dalian, the Communist Party’s third-ranked official reiterated his growing calls for political reforms in China. This has become somewhat of a trend in recent times as the popular Premier seems increasingly willing to depart from traditional party lines, although his most recent opinions have perhaps been his most daring.

Implementing political reforms to complement the dramatic economic results that have shaped modern China is an “urgent task,” according to Wen. Unfortunately, it is not the right time to raise your glasses just yet. Let’s try to be realistic here. The last thing that Wen’s words signify is an “urgent” beginning to any kind of substantial reform measures, especially at a time when the Chinese government remains more sensitive than ever to pressures, outside of its vise-like control, to reform. Indeed, it is easy to dismiss his remarks as faintly progressive, but still sticking somewhat conservatively to the standard vague political jargon and obscure blueprints that are seemingly as far as any official party line is willing to venture.

It would, however, be unfair to entirely deny Wen any credit. If anything, he has maintained a level of consistency in his standpoint and a sense of daring that is sorely missed amongst the often contradictory and unadventurous party lines. Despite this, Wen — whose squeaky clean populist image is meticulously maintained — will be stepping down in a year’s time, and it is highly unlikely that he will be able to act on his words in any meaningful way by that time. Nonetheless, as the last of the hard-line revolutionary generation begin to withdraw from the frontlines of political duties, Wen’s words could prove to be a positive guide for a new generation of leaders seeking to formulate a direction of their own.

(Photo of Wen Jiabao reproduced with attribution to www.kremlin.ru.)

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