A glasnost moment? Unlikely. The Chinese remember what happened to the Soviets

Could this be the moment when China demonstrates its ability to shake off bad old habits and embrace new ways?

Share
Related Topics

Great hopes were vested in Xi Jinping when he became China’s President last year. As China approached critical mass – its economy second only to that of the US; its regional domination increasingly secure; its reach into the markets of Europe, Africa and the Middle East growing in confidence – the time had come for a leadership that was up to the new challenges. For the nation’s most powerful leader since Deng Xiaoping, there could never have been a better time to set China a clear new course.

With the publication of the Third Plenum’s reform plans today, we have the first chance to evaluate whether Mr Xi is living up to his billing. Could this be the moment when China demonstrates its ability to shake off bad old habits and embrace new ways that will make it a better place to live and a more comfortable partner? Is the moment for China’s glasnost and perestroika upon us?

There are certainly elements to welcome. The one getting all the attention is the latest rolling back of the one-child policy. China maintains that its tough requirement that most couples across the country have only one child has saved China an extra 400 million head of people. Foreign experts point out that, with migration to the cities, population growth would probably have slowed anyway, as it has in Japan and South Korea, while the preference for boys has landed China with a serious deficit of women.

This latest step in dismantling the policy is welcome, especially given the demographic nightmare the country will face as it ages rapidly.

Equally welcome is the plan to close labour camps – though they may end up being retooled under new names. Central government struggles to impose its will on provincial governments, which still place much reliance on the so-called “re-education centres”.

If these and other measures outlined in the verbose document fail to convince that Mr Xi and  his colleagues are serious about radical change, it is probably inevitable. Glasnost and perestroika were popular in the West, but for Russian communists they were staging posts  in the rapid collapse of  party rule.

Shining through the new document is Mr Xi’s determination to retain and bolster the Communist Party’s hold on power. To the extent that this conflicts with demands for greater openness and liberalism, real reform is likely to remain, as in the past, for tomorrow, not today.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

History Teacher

£60 - £65 per day: Randstad Education Liverpool: Job opportunities for Seconda...

** Female PE Teacher Urgently Required In Liverpool **

£120 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Liverpool: Job opportunities for Secon...

** Cover Supervisors Urgently Required In Knowsley **

£60 - £65 per day: Randstad Education Liverpool: Job opportunities for Seconda...

Java developer - (Intershop Enfinity)

£40000 - £50000 per annum + benefits: Ampersand Consulting LLP: Java Developer...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Oscar Pistorius is led out of court in Pretoria. Pistorius received a five-year prison sentence for culpable homicide by judge Thokozile Masipais for the killing of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp  

Oscar Pistorius sentence: Judge Masipa might have shown mercy, but she has delivered perfect justice

Chris Maume
Oscar Pistorius at the High Court in Pretoria  

Oscar Pistorius has been sentenced to five years in prison - but what then?

Rosie Millard
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Let's talk about loss

We need to talk about loss

Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album