Some weekend China links:
China’s state media has sought to build excitement about the Third Plenum this weekend by comparing it to the historic 1978 Third Plenum where Deng Xiaoping is said to have seized power and set China toward reform – opening up path that has helped power rapid economic growth for 35 years.
But over at Sinosphere, Chris Buckley has a must-read post that rightly paints a more nuanced picture of the idolized Third Plenum in 1978. By consulting experts and using past interviews of Chinese officials, Buckley shows that China had already begun some gradual economic reforms under General Secretary Hua before the meeting. Moreover, at the meeting Deng was more often reacting to events than imposing a grand vision on a skeptical party. In any case, Deng was rather more conservative about economic reform in 1978 than he is usually depicted as being. In fact, it wasn’t until years later that he would finally embrace many of the key changes of the reform and opening up era. The idea of a “household responsibility system” was actually considered and rejected at the 1978, and didn’t start until 1981.
Before heading into the Plenum that began on Saturday, China’s leaders got some good news in the form of the most recent economic data. South China Morning Post has the story.
According to Reuters, supporters of Bo Xilai have set up the Zhi Xian Party in a direct challenge to China’s de facto ban on non-state sanctioned political parties. The Party quickly named Bo Xilai as its chairman for life.
Meanwhile, The New York Times reports that Bloomberg News is withholding from publications some investigations it has done into the wealth of prominent Chinese businessmen with strong ties to the Communist Party. Last year China banned Bloomberg News for an article it published that examined the wealth of Chinese leaders. The NYT report is based on accounts from unnamed Bloomberg sources inside Hong Kong. The Editor-in-Chief of Bloomberg News, who the report said was the one who decided to not publish the articles, denied the accounts.
That made the recent Freedom House report on China’s efforts to stifle foreign media coverage of it seem particularly timely. Here’s The Diplomat’s coverage of that report.
On a related topic, the right-leaning U.S. magazine, The Weekly Standard, has an article in it this week blasting what it sees as the U.S. media’s decision to kowtow to China. The author writes: “For the last several years, a hugely influential portion of the American media has vacillated between openly admiring the Chinese government and providing a forum for its apologists.”