Understand nation's reforms

Updated: 2013-11-20 07:01

By Zhou Bajun(HK Edition)

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The Third Plenary Session of the 18th Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, held from Nov 9 to 12, outlined its plan to comprehensively deepen reforms. Here in Hong Kong, looking at the top leadership's latest plans for reform, some observers are delighted that the mainland's market mechanism will play a "decisive role" in allocating resources, while some are disappointed there's no signal that China will kick off political reforms that may give the Western model a chance. Many local current affairs commentators have missed the key point in China's new reform plans - that is "the general objective of the comprehensively deepening reforms is to improve and develop socialism with Chinese characteristics and push on with modernization of the country's governing system and capabilities."

Since the CPC decided to establish a "socialist market economy" as the main goal of China's economic reform in late 1992, the majority of Hongkongers believe that putting the term "socialist" before "market economy" is merely a "decoration" rather than a character of significance. For a city, with a history of one-and-a-half centuries of British rule, and having grown from an unknown small fishing village into a major international center of finance, transportation, international trade and commerce, the majority of the population had been used to aligning themselves with the Western world. They still uphold the principle that "a market is a market," without knowing the obvious difference between a socialist market and a capitalist market. In the initial stages of China's economic reform, many Hong Kong people thought that, soon or later, China will begin political reforms similar to those of the former Soviet Union and Eastern European countries in the 1990s. They're utterly wrong.

Since the very beginning of China's reform and opening-up, the CPC leadership has insisted on the fundamental principle that China must build on the reality that it remains in the primary stage of socialism and will long remain so. As far as the new reforms are concerned, there are at least two vital missions: First, to stick to the dominant role of public ownership in the overall economy by decisively continuing reform of State-owned enterprises to create a proper relationship between the government and the market, while allowing the market to play a decisive role in the allocation of resources and limiting the government's power to macro-control, market monitoring, public service, environmental protection and social management. Second, to build an open and unified market providing for orderly competition, and establish a comprehensive and sound social security network to allow the grassroots to share the benefits of reform, opening up and development.

Understand nation's reforms

In the past 20 years, China has boldly undertaken reforms in housing, education and healthcare. In the process, it was unavoidable to overstress the importance of commoditization of property, education and healthcare services. Therefore, social equality and justice, to some extent, have been neglected. In the next five to 10 years, the country' comprehensive deepening of reforms will pay more attention to rebalancing the relationship between market efficiency and social equality and justice - the government will build more housing for low-income families, and amplify education and healthcare services.

The widening urban-rural gap and disputes over land requisition have long been a headache for the central government, forcing it to push forward the urbanization process rapidly. Under the new reforms, a new and integrated system of urban-rural relations will allow people living outside cities equal participation in the modernization program and better property rights. Equal exchanges of urban-rural elements and balanced allocation of public resources should be promoted.

The CPC leadership has vowed that China's political reform won't duplicate the Western political model. The general objective of the new reforms includes modernization of the country's governing system and capabilities, and enriching the content of the mainland's political reform. It's an unprecedented, daunting task.

Any country cannot start its reforms from scratch. Historic cultural heritage has laid the background for national reforms. Reforms also cannot go beyond concrete conditions in a nation's economy, politics and society. As long as the CPC is able to resolve problems and overcome difficulties that lie ahead, China's current political system will be improved rather than be overhauled. Hongkongers who enshrine the Western political model as a universal value and a universal model have to change their paradigm of thinking. Otherwise, they cannot comprehend the country's new reforms.

Hong Kong people should open their eyes as to what's been happening in Western countries. Since 2008, successive financial crises in the economic and political systems have ravaged the US, the European Union and Japan and other advanced countries with outrageous consequences. In Western countries, politics has been paralyzed, while the economy struggles in deep trouble, and society has been wallowing in a tit-for-tat class struggle. How can such a Western model become an example for our nation's reforms?

The author is a veteran current affairs commentator.

(HK Edition 11/20/2013 page9)