Xi Jinping: My road into politics

An interview from 2000 with China’s Vice President Xi Jinping
Translated into Western language for the first time

At the 18th Congress of the Communist Party of China to be held in November 2012, China’s Vice President Xi Jinping is expected to be elected as the new Secretary General of the party.

In August 2000, Xi Jinping gave a rare interview to the Chinese magazine Zhonghua Ernü. NIAS, Nordic Institute of Asian Studies hereby issues a translation of the interview in Danish and English. To our knowledge this the first time the interview has been translated into a Western language. The Danish version is a translation of the original interview in Chinese while the English version is translated from the Danish version. The translated interview was published in the Danish newspaper Politiken on Sunday 28 October 2012.

In the interview Xi Jinping tells about his background, his upbringing and his perception of good governance. In a personal and at times riveting way Xi Jinping explains how he during the Cultural Revolution only 15 years old was sent to the countryside for 7 years – 1,000 km away from Beijing – in order to learn from the peasants while his father was under political criticism. Moreover, Xi Jinping talks about the promotion of officials and corruption.

The interview is translated by the sinologists Carsten Boyer Thøgersen and Susanne Posborg. Carsten Boyer Thøgersen is a former Danish diplomat and Consul-General in Shanghai, posted for 20 years in China and now an associate of NIAS. Susanne Posborg, University of Aarhus, is the most often used Danish translator of Chinese novels and literature.

Researchers and news media are welcome to quote from the English translation if NIAS is stated as the source.

Geir Helgesen,
Director
Nordic Institute of Asian Studies,
University of Copenhagen

 

 

On the Xi Jinping interview in 2000.
By Carsten Boyer Thøgersen and Susanne Posborg

Officially, the interview has never been promoted by the Chinese authorities. Neither in 2000 nor today. The interview is accessible on Chinese web-sites and was in February 2012 once more published in another Chinese commercial magazine, owned by a Xi’an based Chinese shareholding media company.

If interviewed today, Xi Jinping would probably have phrased himself differently. But the interview was already published 12 years ago, has been available since then and known to an increasingly larger Chinese public. What can the Chinese authorities do? They do nothing and do not comment on the interview.

Xi Jinping was 47 years old and governor of Fujian province when he gave the interview in 2000. At the time he was relatively unknown and not even a full member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party. It is not often but neither unusual that a governor of a Chinese province gives a long personal interview to a Chinese magazine. Looking back Xi Jinping gave the interview two years before the party leadership –known for its long-term planning – was to decide on younger candidates to be promoted at the party congress in 2002 and later – at the following party congress in 2007 – to select the possible successor of Hu Jintao in 2012. In 2007 Xi Jinping became a member of standing committee of the Politbureau, indicating he was to become Hu Jintao’s successor in 2012.

Giving the interview back in 2000, the purpose of Xi Jinping was hardly to make himself known as a potential young candidate for promotion. The party itself is fully aware of possible candidates for the party’s top positions and does not welcome reminders. Most likely Xi Jinping wanted to make sure that his background was fully understood, told properly and to stress three things: 1) During the Cultural Revolution he stayed for seven years in the countryside under difficult conditions and only by his own efforts became a member of the party and enrolled at university. That is to say not by political connections and in spite of the fact that his father at the time was under political criticism. 2) In 1982, he chose to give up a comfortable career in Beijing and instead started from the bottom as deputy secretary in a small provincial district. 3) To appear as a person in close contact to ordinary people.

The extraordinary thing about the interview is to hear what China’s new leader said in 2000 in an open and direct conversation. There is nothing unusual in what Xi Jinping said in 2000. Neither read in 2012. But we hear Xi Jinping tell about personal experiences in words he hardly would use today. We hear about his views on good governance, promotion of officials and corruption. The interview gives the reader a more authentic and unfiltered picture of the person to become China’s next leader.

 

Comments
Translators reply September 2013

Xi Jinping: My road into politics.

Interview from the summer of 2000 in the Chinese journal Zhonghua Ernü.

Xi Jinping at the time was 47 years old and governor in the Fujian province.

Yang Xiaohuai was the editor of Zhonghua Ernü.

 

Copyright © 2000 by中华儿女,北京市朝阳区东三环南路98号韩建丹阳大厦15层,邮编:100021

 

Xi Jinping: Welcome here.[1] I have previously said no thank you to personal interviews innumerable times. We all have different tasks. If you do not mention everybody, then you are only emphasizing yourself. You can also put it differently: When we are all doing our duty within our respective area of responsibility, then it is the community that creates the results. Therefore it makes no sense mentioning the individual. That is the reason why I have refused giving personal interviews. There are also people who write autobiographies. I do not do that either.

Yang Xiaohuai: I thought so. That kind of thing can easily lead to misunderstandings.

Xi: Particularly if you look at the popular media. You write about a person’s background. Who are his parents? Who is he married to? He is such and such a person. What’s the use of that? That kind of information is not news. It is something everybody knows already. You make a little soup of it. It is immaterial.

Yang: Obviously that kind of publicity is immaterial and superfluous. But as a high-level official you are in the focus of the formation of public opinion. The press and the media can help people better understand your work. That kind of public mention I think is important.

Xi: Of course you can write about leading officials. To a certain extent. But you must preserve the sense of proportions. There is a tendency to write that a leading official is so and so perfect and so and so excellent, but in reality nobody is perfect and consummate. Take a person and describe him as excellent. Nobody will believe it. An individual’s ability to get results on his own is limited. Without the community and without cooperation you will achieve nothing. Therefore I believe that it is better to focus on the community and cooperation.

Yang: You recently took the post as governor of the Fujian province. What new political initiatives did you consider, and what parts of the politics in progress did you wish to continue?

Xi: When I became governor in August last year, the members of the provincial government emphasized two points: Firstly that I was to continue working on the foundations laid by the previous governor. It was my task seeing to it that the plans laid down at the beginning of the year were carried through. In addition I could come with my own plans. When you have just taken over a new job you will also want to set your own agenda in the first year. But it must be on the foundations of your predecessor. It is like a relay race. You have to receive the baton properly and then yourself run it in goal.

The second point: Of course a provincial governor has an important position. But he is just one person. A provincial government consists of a governor, several deputy governors and many colleagues in the various departments. If you are to achieve results, everybody must pull in the same direction. Furthermore it is important that you make sure you have the cooperation and back-up of the whole province.

Yang: When you were sent to Ningde county[2]as a leader, I have heard that you did not tear along ostentatiously, as many other leaders do when they come to a new place. You did not come sweeping with new brooms to make room for your own special projects. You did not use big words but proceeded slowly and patiently.

Xi: When I was sent to Ningde, I had been vice mayor in Xiamen[3] for three years. For a brief period I was also acting leader of the city. I had worked to develop Xiamen’s economic reform policy and to build the city’s large industrial zone. The provincial leadership was happy about my efforts and my experiences getting things going, so they decided to appoint me leader of Ningde county. At the time Jia Qinglin[4] was deputy secretary of the party committee of the Fujian province. He called me for a meeting and said: “We want you to go to Ningde county to get things going and change the profile of the county. The level is low and development has been far too slow. We have had many meetings, bur Ningde is still the poorest county of the province. There is no spirit there, just empty words. You must do something extraordinary, so that the situation in the county will be changed.” Both the party leader of the province Chen Guangyi[5]  and governor Wang Zhaoguo[6] supported me with much advice.

The first thing I did in Ningde was familiarizing myself thoroughly with things. I was filled with admiration for its people. They had for several years worked hard and laboriously and had made a great effort. In Ningde they had built the first medium-sized hydroelectric power station of the province. From here electricity was led on to the whole province and to the urban centres. You could see that people in Ningde had diligently given their contribution to the economic development of the province. It wasn’t that people did not work, but the natural conditions of the county had its limitations. Of course there were also things that could be done better. Many things were still in the old grove, and original thinking was lacking.

But just as I had come to Ningde inflation rose, the economy became overheated, and the central government implemented a strict economic policy. The economic situation allowed no extraordinary economic initiatives. Everybody wanted a change and hoped that I could contribute to it. But I had no smart theoretical solution and did not come with a miracle. Therefore the only thing I could say was that the economic crisis was an occasion and a motivation for everybody to join hands. My greatest worry was that we should plunge into unsafe projects. The time was not for that. It would have been easy to make a rousing and enthusiastic speech, arouse their enthusiasm and utilize everybody’s motivation to pitch into work. But that might easily have resulted in grave disappointment. So that wasn’t what I did.

My procedure was to light a small fire to warm up the water, keep the fire burning and now and again pour some more cold water in, so that the kettle did not boil over. People told me that they wanted to get three great projects going: Building a harbour at Sandu´ao[7], establishing a railway-line to Ningde and putting greater emphasis on developing the cities in the county. I answered that that kind of project needed developing slowly, as our economic foundation was still weak, and that we should not aim too high. At first we had to analyse the facts and create a robust economic foundation. Even if it takes a long time even ‘a drop can hollow out a stone’.

The last thing I have heard is that my plans for the development of the county did not miss the mark. After 12 years of thorough preparations the State Council has now approved prioritizing developing the cities. A railway line has been projected, while building a harbour is still being made researches into. Praxis has shown that with Ningde’s conditions no miracle will happen overnight.

There were several challenges, and it was a steady pull. But as in the race between the tortoise and the hare you may finally reach the goal and win. Carrying out the plans took a long time, and I myself did not count on leaving Ningde at once.

I set four goals for myself: To encourage thinking along new lines, building a solid group of leaders, taking initiatives to fight poverty and exploiting Ningde’s special economic possibilities as a mountainous area near the coast.

I left Ningde after two years because the provincial government wanted me back here in Fuzhou. Even if my time in Ningde was brief, I came to love the place very much. Now many years later, Ningde is still one of the places that I am greatly attached to.

Yang: These years several people talk about many officials coming with ‘new brooms’ to a new job, get a couple of new projects going to leave again after a short period. You yourself have talked about how important it is having patience. I have visited a good many places but have only met very few officials thinking like you. Many people believe that officials first and foremost aim at a success to get promoted and to create results to further their own career. Do you have any comments on that?

Xi: Promotion is only something external. If a promotion is well founded, it is only one of several signs that the individual has achieved results in his work. A promotion can be seen as an expression of recognition from management and colleagues. But you must remember that promotion in itself is not the full and true assessment of an official as a person. Promotion alone does not tell the whole story about an official. Our system of assessment is still not perfect and makes evaluating an official very difficult. Both subjective and objective factors come in, and in the final analysis that means that the assessment is imperfect.

When I have left a post, I have always thought back on my colleagues, I have summed up my impressions and found that I also sometimes have posted my colleagues wrongly. Some were posted wrongly because I thought they were better than they actually were, others because I thought they were poorer than they actually were. That was because I did not compare their efforts and immediate progress with their personal motivation. Therefore one may easily happen to promote the wrong colleagues if one does not view their efforts in a larger perspective. As an organization and as management we do not have a final set of criteria when it comes to assessing a colleague and deciding if the person in question is to be promoted.

Yang: Of course I do not know your entire background, but you have had a career as an official for over 20 years. Is it not true that – unlike some officials who have promotion as their ultimate goal – you have a fundamental wish to do something good for society?

Xi: That is true. It is a highly relevant question. It is about a decisive choice in life, which I myself – already before I went into politics – thought a lot about. First and foremost over such questions as: Which way do you want to go? What do you want to do with your life? What goals do you want to achieve? Personally I set several goals. One of them was doing something important for society. When that is the goal of your life, you must at the same time be aware that you can’t have your cake and eat it. If you go into politics, it mustn’t be for money. Sun Yatsen[8] said the same thing, namely that one has to make up one’s mind to accomplish something and not go for a high position as an official. If you wish to make money, there are many legal ways of becoming rich. Becoming rich in a legal way is worth all honour and respect. Later the taxation authorities will also respect you because you are contributing to the economic development of the country. But you should not go into politics if you wish to become wealthy. In that case you will inevitably become a corrupt and filthy official. A corrupt official with a bad reputation who will always be afraid of being arrested, and who must envisage having a bad posthumous reputation.

If you go into politics to make a career, you must give up any thought of personal advantages. That is out of the question. An official may not through a long career have achieved very great things, but at least he has not put something up his sleeve. He is upright. In a political career you can never go for personal advantages or promotion. It is just like that. It can’t be done. These are the rules.

You do not promote a person just because he has good qualifications and experience. Of course qualifications are important, as are a great sense of responsibility and a great knowledge. But it must be seen in a larger context. When you are to choose a person who is to get an important position, and who can make a difference, you must also see it in connection with the time, place, other colleagues and the situation in general. So there is no definite formula which you can use to figure out who is to get promoted.

If throughout your career you have unsuccessfully tried to achieve success, it may be a great personal disappointment that you fail to get promoted. But as the old Master Guan<[9]said: Do not try to do the impossible, do not strive for the unobtainable, do not rest on the transient, do not do what cannot be repeated.

You should not be afraid of difficulties and challenges when you have prepared yourself thoroughly. Politics is both unsafe and risky, and wilfulness is no passable road. Many who have experienced failures are hit by self-reproaches thinking: “I have helped so many people, I have done so much, and all I get is ingratitude. There are so many people who do not understand me. Why must it be like that?” Some of my colleagues who started at the same time as I have given up their jobs for that reason. If you have a position somewhere, the thing is to stick to it and continue one’s work. Then, in the final analysis, it will give results. The germ of success is to fasten on and continue one’s work. Once you have gone into politics, it is like crossing a river. No matter how many obstacles you meet, there is only one way, and that is further on. I myself have also come across many difficulties and obstacles. That is simply inevitable.

Yang: I have been told that you originally worked in The Central Military Commission in Beijing. For many people this would be an ideal job. But nevertheless, after a brief employment, you chose to leave your job to work at grass-roots level. Why?

Xi: There were many who did not understand me at the time. Before I went to the county of Zhending in the province of Hebei, I worked as a secretary for defence minister Geng Biao,[10] who was also a member of the Politbureau. He said that if I wanted to work at a grass roots level, I might follow the army on its exercises. I did not have to work for a local government.[11]

Before leaving Beijing I was around saying goodbye to friends and acquaintances. Many of them had been sent to the countryside during the “Cultural Revolution” – to all kind of places – and were now at length back into town again. Some of them thought that they had had a very hard time. There were also those who thought that now their time had come. Now it was their time to live a good life. It disappointed me to hear that. They would not move outside a radius of 50 kilometres from Beijing, for then they would lose their official register address in Beijing. But I said that we should go out with the same commitment and enthusiasm as generations of officials before us had done.

During the “Cultural Revolution” we were sent out into the countryside. We had no choice; it was something we were forced to. It is a part of our history from which we have learned a lot. Today we have good times and have put that kind of ‘leftist’ policy behind us. But we still need to go to the countryside, be diligent and do a good job.

The old poet and calligrapher Zheng Banqiao[12]wrote in his first poem “when your roots are deeply anchored in the mountains, no storms from any corner of the world can blow you down or make you surrender.” I would like to change some of the words based on my own experiences from my stay in the countryside saying: “when you are close to the grass roots and close to the people, no storms from any corner of the world can blow you down or make you surrender.” My seven years in the countryside have meant a lot to me. I have gained a deep knowledge of people, and that has been a decisive precondition for my later work. If I again am to work at grass roots level, I will not hesitate for a moment and do it with great confidence. Even if much always will be unpredictable, every day will be rich in experiences and challenges. I would certainly again like to work at grass roots level if I am asked to and my health is all right. In the final analysis anyone can assess my work and my successors will be able to evaluate my achievements. I need not think of that.

Yang: I have understood that through more than 20 years – whether it was at a village level, in counties, in regions or in cities like Fuzhou – you have always had a very good cooperation. How did you manage to achieve that cooperation?

Xi: Cooperation was something I learned at home as a child. My father often talked about it, telling us children already when we were quite small that we should be good at cooperating. “Do not do to others what you do not want others to do to you.” “Behave decently to others and then you yourself are a decent human being.” These were the phrases he would use to emphasise that you should not just think about your own view of things but also about what others believed. When you live with other people and only follow your own opinion, things will go badly. What my father said has meant a lot to me. No matter whether it was at school or when Í worked in the countryside, I have had a strong feeling that if everybody cooperates, then you will achieve good results. If cooperation is bad, it is bad for everybody.

But I have also made mistakes that I have learned from. When I was sent to the countryside, I was very young. It was something I was forced to. At the time I did not think very far and did not at all think of the importance of cooperating. While others in the village every day went up the mountain slopes and worked, I did as I chose, and people got a very bad impression of me. Some months later I was sent back to Beijing and placed in a “study group”. When six months later I was let out, I thought a lot about whether I should return to the village. At last I called upon my uncle, who before 1949 had worked in a base area in the Taihang Mountains.[13]  At the time he, my aunt and my mother were active in revolutionary work. All of them are people who have meant a lot to me. My uncle told me about his work then, and about how decisive it is to cooperate with the people among whom you are.

That settled it. I went back to the village, got down to work and cooperated. In a matter of a year I did the same work as people in the village, lived in the same way as they and worked hard. People saw that I had changed. They accepted me and began passing by the cave in which I lived,[14] which soon became a rendezvous. It must have been around 1970. Every night people of all ages would turn up. I would tell them what I knew of China’s history and the history of the world. They would like to hear someone from the city tell them about something they did not know about. At last the leader of the village came and listened. He said that young people knew much more than he himself. Slowly the village gained confidence in me. Even if I was not more than 16 or 17 years old, several of the old people began asking for my advice. Today writers write about how miserable lives the young students led in the countryside then. It wasn’t like that for me. In the beginning it was hard, but I got used to life in the village, and as people got confidence in me, I had a good life.

 

Yang: I have been told that while you were in the village you joined the production brigade[15], then you became a member of the party’s youth league[16], then a member of the party, and finally promoted to the position as secretary of the production brigade’s party branch. With your family background this was unusual at that time. Could you tell me more about how you experienced this period?

Xi: It was around 1973. The entrance examinations to the party were taken place, but those who had a family background like mine – as you just mentioned – were not accepted. At last I was permitted to go to the Zhaojia He production brigade in the Fengjia Ping people’s commune to study. It was very exciting. At the time I had become a member of the youth league but not yet a member of the party. I had already written ten applications for membership of the party, but because of my family history my application was not approved. The people’s commune then sent my application on to the county’s party committee to hear their opinion. The secretary of the party committee said that my family background as reported by the village indeed was complicated and it was no wonder that the local people had found it difficult to reach a decision. On the other hand he also thought that the village needed me to lead the work, so he ended deciding that my father’s situation should be of no importance for my admission into the party. He approved my application and then sent me back as party secretary of the production brigade of the village.

-o-

Before that I had also had great difficulties becoming a member of the party’s youth league. I only succeeded after having applied eight times. When I had written the first application, I invited the secretary of the production brigade’s party branch home and offered him omelette and steamed wheat balls. After we had eaten I asked:

“Have you sent my application on?”

“How sent on? From above everybody say that you should teach children.”

“What do you mean by saying that I should teach children?”

“From above they say that you have not distanced yourself clearly from your family.”

“So what is the decision? It is about a human being. There must be a decision. What is the decision about my father? What documents have you had from the central authorities?”

“No, the application has not been sent on, but now it will be.”

When he came back from the people’s commune he told me that the party secretary of the people’s commune had scolded him saying that he had not understood a thing, and had asked if he really wanted to send the application on from such a person? I asked:

“Such a person? What does that mean? Have I written something reactionary or shouted reactionary slogans? I am just a young man who wishes to move forward. Tell me what is wrong with that?”

I was not knocked out and wrote my second application in the next days, gave it to the secretary of the party branch asking him to send it on. I continued like that until I had written eight applications. I did not lose heart and had no feelings of inferiority. I just thought that there were more good than bad people in the party and the youth league. I really wanted to join the youth league and told the party secretary that I needed his support. When I had written eight applications I was finally approved as a member. But it only happened after I had had the support of the secretary of the people’s commune’s youth league. He came to the village and talked to me for five days. We came close and became really good friends. When shortly afterwards he took over the job as the leader of the out-of-school education of the people’s commune, he was also the one who took the “black material’’ about me and simply burned it. It happened in the way that he took me up into the mountains to a small ravine. We sat down, and he said:

“I have all the “black material” about you right here.”

“What are you going to do with it?”

“I’ll burn it.”

“You must be out of your mind.”

“May be, but I can see that it was sent from your school in Beijing.”

-o-

That was true. For I had been expelled from the high school for children of high ranking party members and then caught by Kang Sheng’s[17]wife Cao Yi’ou’s red guard group, who accused me of all manner of bad things. I was called a gang leader because I was stubborn, and because I said that I had done nothing wrong. I did not want to be kicked around and did not give in to the red guards. I was only 14. The red guards asked:

“How serious do you yourself think your crimes are?”

“You can estimate it yourselves. Is it enough to execute me?”

“We can execute you a hundred times.”

To my mind there was no difference between being executed a hundred times or once, so why be afraid of a hundred times? The red guards wanted to scare me saying that now I was to feel the democratic dictatorship of the people, and that I only had five minutes left. Afterwards they said that I was to read quotations from Chairman Mao[18] every single day until late at night. Then they decided to send me to a youth prison. But it turned out that the youth prison did not have a study program for “black gangs”, and moreover, that there were no vacancies until a month later. At the same time – it was in December 1968 – Chairman Mao issued a new instruction: Young students should be sent into the countryside to learn from the peasants. I immediately went to the school to be sent into the countryside so that I could follow Chairman Mao’s instruction. They considered that at the school eventually deciding that I was to go to Yan’an. It was like being sent into exile.

-o-

After many difficulties one way or another – problems because of the “Cultural Revolution” and problems with the decision to send students to the countryside – it turned out that the village actually needed me and would not do without me. So I felt at ease in the village. If at the time I had been in the cities, as a worker or anything else, I would have been criticized every single day, as the “Cultural Revolution” was a lot more violent in the cities.

In the village in northern Shaanxi we also participated in meetings criticizing Liu Shaoqi’s and Deng Xiaoping’s[19] representatives in north-western China “Peng, Gao and Xi”, Liu Lantao, Zhao Shouyi and others. “Peng, Gao and Xi” were Peng Dehuai, Gao Gang and Xi Zhongxun.[20] During these daily meetings of criticism the praxis was that those who could read were asked to read aloud from the newspapers. I was asked to do that as well. That was all. The villagers were very understanding. It was my father’s old base area. Before 1949 he had – 19 years old – been president of the “Shaanxi-Gansu Soviet.”[21] Therefore many people would care for me and help me. I myself was also very motivated. That was what it was like.

Yang: You have told about your seven years’ experiences in the countryside. Can you tell me about the most important experience you have had?

Xi: I grew up in the seven years I was in Shaanxi. I learned two important things. First I had the opportunity to understand what real life looks like, what is right and wrong, and who ordinary people are. These were experiences for life.

Right as I had arrived at the village, many beggars would often appear. As soon as they turned up, the dogs would be set on them. At the time we students had the opinion that all beggars were “bad elements” and tramps.  We did not know the saying “in January there is still enough food, in February you will starve, and March and April you are half alive half dead”. For six months all families would only live on bark and herbs. Women and children were sent out to beg, so that the food could go to those who were working in the fields with the spring ploughing. You had to live in a village to understand it. When you think of the difference there was at that time between what the central government in Beijing knew and what actually happened in the countryside, you must shake your head.

Second, I had my self confidence built up. As they say: the knife is sharpened on a stone, people are strengthened in adversity. Seven years of hard life in the countryside developed me a lot. When later in life I have encountered challenges, I have thought about the village, and that then I could do something in spite of hardships. When later I have come across problems, I have never experienced them as big as then. Every man is to find his own strength. When you meet hardships you mustn’t panic, no matter how big the challenge is.

Yang: How did you manage to get admitted into university while you were in the village?

Xi: At the time I was one of the leaders in the village, but all the time I thought that I would study further. Although I read far too few books, I had not given up my greatest wish – to go to university. At the time the Tsinghua University[22] had given two places to the Yan’an prefecture. One of them went to Yanchuan country where I lived. There were three of us who applied. I said that If you choose me, I will go, if not, never mind. Yanchuan county reported my application to Yan’an prefecture[23] and the leadership of the education committee of Yanchuan county supported my application. But the people from Tsinghua University who had come to Yan’an, and who were responsible for the procedure of admission, dared not make a final decision and asked for instruction from the management of the university. At the same time – it was from July 1975 and three months on – a political campaign had started against what was called “the attempts of the right wing to change the foundations of the Cultural Revolution”. While Chi Qun and Xie Jingyi were absent from the university because of the campaign, Liu Bing[24] was in charge. Liu said there was no problem for me to enrol. At the time my father worked in a factory in Luoyang. The factory submitted a document stating that the political question ofXi Zhongxun was a contradiction within the people and should have no influence on his children’s careers. The document meant that I was admitted into the university. When I left the village, some of the other students were envious of me. They were all of them top students, but they did not have a case that needed re-opening, and all of them were admitted later.

The experiences from my time in the countryside have left a deep impression. They have given me an understanding of the concept of The yellow earth.[25] When later I have had problems and thought of The yellow earth, then these problems have all become smaller.

Yang: That is to say that the most important thing in life is the conviction that you have a clear purpose with your life. That you know what to do and what not to, so that you never go the wrong way?

Xi: That is very true. You have to make your own decisions yourself. You can only make the right choice if you are true towards your own ideals and your convictions. If you are not, your surroundings may easily lead you in a wrong direction.

Yang: As far as I know, you are still in close contact with the group of former students who are closely attached to The yellow earth. With them you do what you can for the local people, and the group has done a lot to promote local development.

Xi: In my village there was no electricity. After I had left it, I helped seeing to it that a transformer station was built, so that they had electricity. Some years ago I also helped the village repairing the school and a bridge. I did not have the money to help them myself, but I helped them formulate and introduce the projects and discuss them with local leaders, so that they could understand how important the projects were. Later on they decided to carry them through. Even if poverty was massive in the village, they cared well for me for many years. Therefore it is natural that I should do something for the peasants in Yan’an.

Yang: I noticed that as Fujian’s provincial governor, in your speech to the people’s congress in January this year – according to the media – you emphasized that the government must make sure that every single official must remember that the power of the People’s Government comes from the people, that they must represent and be of benefit to the people, and in particular that they should not forget that before the word “government” there is another word “the people’s”. The applause of the assembly was great. The media also emphasised the fact that you were re-elected with a large majority.

Xi: To us communists it is so that ordinary people[26] are like our father and mother. They are the ones to feed and clothe us. We must understand the full significance of the expression Serve the people. The total policies and directions of the Party and Government must be in full agreement with the people’s interests and be of the highest standard. We must always remind ourselves that we are the people’s servants, that we have the people’s need for clothes, food and decent living conditions at heart, and that we have the people’s support, backup and approval in everything we do. As you love your father and mother, you should love the people, be of use and create a good life for everybody. We should not be above the people, but should make sure that the people lead decent lives. Even in the old feudal society they said that “an official must create progress for the people.” So it cannot be too much to demand that we communists must be aware of the welfare of the people, can it?

Yang: It has been an interesting conversation. Thank you very much for the interview.

 

Translated from Danish into English by Torben Vestergaard©, professor in English Literature and Language, University of Aalborg, Denmark

The Danish text was translated by Carsten Boyer Thøgersen and Susanne Posborg© from:

文章刊登于《中华儿女》2000年第7期

大众文摘,2012年2月下总第163期,新商报社,西安新华印务有限公司.

陕西华商传媒集团有限责任公司ISSN: 1009-8747, CN: CN61-1381/C.

Around 95 per cent of the full interview is translated. Expressions and concepts which are primarily only understood by Chinese readers have been either omitted or modified. Footnotes have been added by the translators.

Click here for Danish  version

The original text in Chinese


1.

The interview takes place in Fuzhou, the provincial capital of Fujian.

2.

Ningde is one of the nine counties of the Fujian province. Ningde has a population of 2.8 million and an area of 13,500 km2.

3.

Xiamen is the biggest commercial city of the province of Fujian with a population of 3.5 million and an area of 1,700 km2.

4.

Well-known leader in China. In 2000 Jia Qinglin was Beijing’s party secretary. From 2002 to 2012 Jia Qinglin was member of the communist party’s politbureau’s standing committee of 9 members, Chinas topmost leadership organ.

5.

Chen Guangyi, born in 1933, was a member of the Central Committee of the party from 1982 to 2002.

6.

Wang Zhaoguo, born in 1941, was a member of the Politbureau from 2002 to 2012.

7.

Sandu`ao is an island off Ningde.

8.

Sun Yatsen (1866-1925) founded the Kuomintang  Party/KMT (Guomindang) and in 1911 became China’s first president.

9.

Guanzi (also known as Guan Zhong) about 720-645 bC. High Ranking civil servant and reformer in the stat of Qi.

10.

Geng Biao, 1909-2000, joined the communist party in 1925. After 1949 Geng had leading posts in the army, the government and the diplomacy.

11.

Xi Jinping did not follow the advice but precisely got employment with a local government.

12.

Zheng Banqiao (also known as Zheng Xie) 1693-1765 was a well known poet and calligrapher in the Qing dynasty.

13.

A mountain range in the southern part of the Shanxi province.

14.

It is normal in Northern Shaanxi that villagers’ dwellings are dug or hewed into the loess slopes.

15.

From 1958 to the beginning of the 1980s and thus during Xi Jinping’s stay in the county side of Shaanxi province 1969 to 1975, the main village-level organisations were: People’s commune 人民公社, the highest of three administrative levels. Production brigade 生产大队, the larger basic accounting and farm production unit in a people’s commune. Production team 生产队, the smaller basic accounting and farm production unit in a people’s commune.

16.

中国社会主义青年团. In English The Communist Youth League of China”, (CYLC).  At the start of the Cultural Revolution, officially from 1966 to 1978, the functioning of the Communist Youth League of China largely stopped and its Central Committee was disbanded. However, from the early 1970s CYLC’s functions were partly resumed. Only in 1978 CYLC’s functions were fully normalized.

17.

At that time China’s minister of security.

18.

Mao Zedong, 1893-1976, chairman of China’s communist party 1935-1976.

19.

At the beginning of the Cultural Revolution Liu Shaoqi and Deng Xiaoping had the posts as China’s President and Secretary General of China’s communist party respectively.

20.

Xi Zhongxun, 1913-2002, was Xi Jinping’s father.

21.

The Shaanxi-Gansu Soviet was a large area in North Western China Controlled by China’s Communist Party.

22.

The Tsinghua University in Beijing is one of China’s leading universities.

23.

China’s administrative levels are province, prefecture, county, township and village (省,地区,县,乡,村)

24.

In 1975, Chi Qun was the party secretary of Tsinghua University while Xie Jingyi and Liu Bing both were deputy party secretaries at the university. Chi and Xie were cultural revolutionaries. Liu Bing was associated with Deng Xiaoping. What Xi Jinping wants to tell with his short side-remark is this: While the cultural revolutionaries Chi and Xie, respectively party secretary and vice party secretary at Tsinghua University, were busy attending an important political campaign outside the university, daily management of the university was transferred – following normal administrative procedures – to the other vice party secretary Liu Bing, an alley of Deng Xiaoping. Still, administrative decisions as always would follow established procedures. Therefore, Liu Bing could not make an administrative decision on Xi Jinping’s enrolment until the university’s administrative office had received an obligatory document from the working unit of Xi Jinping’s father. When received, Liu routinely confirmed Xi Jinping’s application, already requested by Yan’an Prefecture and endorsed by Yanchuan County. Xi Jinping probably made this side-remark with a drop of irony: while the cultural revolutionaries Chi and Xie were busy elsewhere, they missed a chance to complicate, if they had wanted to, the admission to Tsinghua University of a student whose father had been criticized by the cultural revolutionaries. But as Xi Jinping right after says, the document from his father’s work unit was the very document allowing him to enrol at Tsinghua University. If the cultural revolutionaries Chi and Xie had been in charge of daily management at Tsinghua University, they could have made noises but hardly side-lined established administrative procedures.

25

The poor loess plateau in the Shaanxi province.

26.

Lao Bai Xing. (The old one hundred family names = the man in the street).


Mo Yan på tryggt avstånd från politiken av Johan Lagerkvist

Svenska Akademiens beslut att 2012 års Nobelpris i litteratur går till den kinesiske författaren Mo Yan är ett val som får enorm uppmärksamhet i Kina. Det är svårt att överskatta Nobelprisernas betydelse i ett land och en kultur där dessa utmärkelser – i synnerhet de naturvetenskapliga – varit stora nyheter alltsedan reformpolitiken inleddes 1978. I en kultur som kännetecknas av konfuciansk lärdomstradition har mytbildningen runt priserna och ceremonierna i Stockholm och Oslo befunnit sig i ett avlägset stjärnsystem dit man innerligt önskat att en kines någon gång skulle nå.

Denna längtan är starkt förknippad med erkännande och upprättelse. Ända sedan den kommunistiska revolutionen 1949 har generationer kineser genom skolböcker och av statligt kontrollerade nyhetsmedier internaliserat ”de hundra åren av förödmjukelse” som tiden från det första opiumkriget 1842 via kejsardömets fall 1911 till Mao Zedongs bonderevolution har beskrivits.

Kina och den kinesiska kulturen som västerlandet dömde ut som ”Asiens sjuke man” i slutet av 1800-talet hade visserligen rest sig, som Mao yttrade när Folkrepubliken Kina utropades den 1 oktober 1949 på Himmelska fridens port i Peking. Men kineser drömde fortfarande om att komma ikapp väst på alla de sätt om utmärker en moderniserad och avancerad kulturnation, inte minst inom litteraturens domän.

Döm därför om den besvikelse som det officiella Kina och kommunistpartiet kände när Nobelpriset i litteratur år 2000 gavs till den regimkritiske författaren Gao Xingjian, som har franskt, inte kinesiskt, medborgarskap. Det priset har regimen länge tigit som muren om, även om det inom intellektuella kretsar visserligen finns de som uppskattar Gaos författarskap. Tio år senare tillfogade den norska Nobelkommittén enpartistaten en än värre kalldusch, när man beslutade att tilldela Nobels fredspris till regimkritikern och dissidenten Liu Xiaobo.

Sedan 2010 har det verkat som att Kina närmast gett upp hoppet om att få ett ”riktigt” erkännande av kinesisk kultur trots de senaste årens allt starkare ekonomiska och politiska ställning i världen. Bara några dagar innan Svenska Akademiens ständige sekreterare Peter Englund stegade ut inför den samlade världspressen och den kinesiska statstelevisionens kameror, kritiserade kommunistpartiets populistiska flaggskepp Global Times de humanistiska Nobelpriserna, det vill säga fredspriset och litteraturpriset, för att vara bemängda med västerländska värden, per definition endast sken-universalistiska och egentligen diskriminerande av andra världskulturer.

Efter beskedet om att 2012 års litteraturpristagare blir den 57-årige författaren Mo Yan syns den negativa kritiken och dåliga stämningen vara som bortblåst. I kommunistpartiets språkrör Folkets Dagblad, den statliga centraltelevisionen CCTV, temasektioner på kinesiska nyhetsportaler och i deras kommentarsfält kan man bevittna den stolthet och glädje som helt självklart följer på erhållandet av ett så oerhört prestigefyllt pris.

Frågan är om Kinas Nobelkomplex slutligen har övervunnits. I varje fall fylls de traditionella massmedierna och de sociala medierna som till exempel mikrobloggarna med nationalistiskt färgade yttringar i stil med ”Otroligt glädjande, grattis Mo Yan, grattis Kina” och ”För ett gammalt land och en gammal civilisation som Kina är detta stora pris alltför sent kommet. Men trots det – mina varmaste gratulationer till Mäster Mo Yan”.

Hur ska man tolka denna stolta nationalkänsla – som andas ett ”äntligen” och ”till slut” – som är såväl folkligt förankrat som statssanktionerat? Betyder somligas suck av lättnad och glädjen över att icke-västliga värden, den kinesiska ”verkligheten” och kinesiska sanningsanspråk erkänns av en länge ointresserad, okunnigt, och ovänligt sinnad västvärld? Kanske upplever de röster i de officiella medierna som har uttryckt att Kinas ekonomiska och politiska uppstigande medför att utlandet måste intressera sig mer för allt kinesiskt nu viss upprättelse?

Dessa frågor är ytterst angelägna när Kinas inflytande i, men också starka nationalism gentemot, omvärlden ökar. På Kinas största nyhetsportal Sina toppade nyheten om Mo Yans Nobelpris nyhetsagendan den 11 oktober, och som nummer två fanns nyheten att kinesiska utrikesdepartementet hårt kritiserar Japans ”illegala kontroll” över Senkaku-öarna som Kina anser vara en del av Kinas territorium.

Under hösten 2012 har den territoriella konflikten mellan Kinas och Japans regeringar om ögruppen trappats upp, ivrigt påhejad av nationalistiska hetsporrar i både länderna. I kinesiska städer demonstrerade under september tusentals människor som brände japanska bilar och manade till bojkott av örikets varor. På kinesiska internet fällde hundratusentals människor hatfyllda uttalanden mot grannen i öst. Många hävdade att krig med Tokyo inte alls var otänkbart, utan tvärtom nödvändigt och till och med önskvärt.

Denna nationalism har inte uppstått ur tomma intet. Som i många andra kinesiska författares och konstnärers verk finns också hos Mo Yans ”Det röda fältet” realistiska skildringar av den japanska arméns grymma frammarsch över den kinesiska jorden under motståndskriget mot Japan mellan 1937 och 1945. Inom kommunistpartiet gillas kanske inte hur Mo beskriver partiets relativa, och alls inte absoluta, betydelse för de kinesiska styrkornas militära framgångar mot japanerna. Men ändå framstår hans ämne som patriotiskt korrekt, i en tid och samtidskontext när nationalism alltmer blir det kitt som håller samman både kommunistpartiet och det omgivande samhället. Det går därför inte heller att bortse från den nye Nobelpristagarens medlemskap i kommunistpartiet.

Bortsett från hans obestridliga litterära kvaliteter och den kritik mot sociala strukturer, lokalt maktmissbruk och ekonomisk vanskötsel som finns i Mo Yans verk, finns det någon vidare politisk betydelse i författarskapet för Kina i dag? Hur ser han som författare i ett auktoritärt styrt land på brännande frågor om censur och kontroll av massmedier och internet? Finns det alls ett moraliskt ansvar att utkräva eller är det endast en störande fråga som skymmer hans bokproduktion?

Den världsberömde konstnären och ständige nageln i ögat på den kinesiska regimen, Ai Weiwei, uttryckte på sitt Twitterkonto att ”Författare som inte förmår stå upp för sanningen inte kan skiljas från lögnare”. Den kände bloggaren Bei Feng var ursinnig över den kinesiska internetcensur som helt spärrade ut honom ur internetlandskapet efter kritik av Mo Yans Nobelpris: ”Efter en avvikande åsikt på Sina Weibo om att Mo Yan tilldelats priset utraderades mitt konto – medan Mo Yan sade att priset illustrerar en tid då man kan yttra sig fritt. Jag anser de här händelserna bäst illustrerar nivån på den Svenska Akademien”. Troligen kommer åsikterna mellan liberala konstutövare och mer systembevarande nationalistiska intellektuella att brytas hårt under kommande månader – på internet där de i väntan på censurens näve ibland kan mötas i debatt.

Vissa hävdar att man ändå bör vara försiktig med pekpinnar. Och det finns förutsättningar för att kinesisk politik kan förändras också genom reformsinnade krafter som verkar inom kommunistpartiet och genom det som den amerikanske sinologen Timothy Cheek har kallat för ”de etablissemangsintellektuella”. Men om dessa personer utomlands får frågor om arbetsläger, dissidenter och mänskliga rättigheter blir det förstås plågsamt. Att yttra sig kritiskt om tillståndet för mänskliga rättigheter i Kina skulle innebära utraderade möjligheter för dem att verka för det fria ordet inom etablissemangets strukturer.

Detta gäller också för Mo Yan. Ombedd att kommentera statens behandling av Liu Xiaobo, mottagaren fredspriset 2010, blev svaret att han ”visste för lite om det hela”. Vid något anat tillfälle ska han ha uttryckt att ”skrika på gatorna är något för vissa, medan andra försöker förändra genom arbete på kammaren”. Det är en hållning som den berömde kinesiske idéhistorikern Wang Hui i ett samtal med mig anslöt sig till: ”Vad tycker ni i väst att vi borde göra, springa ut på gatorna och demonstrera? Inte säkert det är mödan värt!” Inte bara kan offentliga protester innebära slutet på en yrkeskarriär, menade Wang, det kan också vara mindre effektivt än att gradvis påverka partikulturen inifrån.

Och även om en författare som Mo Yan helst håller sig på armlängds avstånd från dagsaktuell politik och frågor om dissidenter, är han i romaner och noveller starkt kritisk till sociala missförhållanden på landsbygden i Shandongprovinsen. Bitande sarkasm och beskrivningar av lokalt maktmissbruk och översitteri finns också i ”Vitlöksballaderna”. Landsbygdens kvävande patriarkala ordning är något som Mo Yan kritiserar i sina verk, liksom hur ettbarnspolitiken i inlandsprovinserna leder till överskott på pojkar.

Dessa förvisso vassa skildringar av Kinas sociala liv och lokala pampvälden gör honom dock inte till en subversiv samhällsskildrare. Kritik mot samhällsfenomen som korruption, maktmissbruk, miljöförstöring och landkonfiskation är möjlig att framföra i dagens Kina bland fler än författare. Den subversive kritiserar kommunistpartiet som ”samhällets ledande kraft”, organiserar religiösa, politiska eller arbetarintressen i syfte att genomdriva politiska reformer för sin sak. Men kritik mot kommunistpartiets maktutövning på landsbygden är faktiskt relativt vanligt inom statskontrollerade medier och det finns reformsinnade krafter som premiärminister Wen Jiabao till och med i politbyråns ständiga utskott.

Mo Yan får Nobelpriset i litteratur när Kina befinner sig i en brytningstid mellan gammalt och nytt. Kommunistpartiets ömsar ledarskinn i år. Ekonomin är skakig och spänningarna mellan olika grupper och intressen i samhället ökar, inte minst mellan stad och landsbygd. Den nya politbyrå som tar form efter den 18:e partikongressen som inleds den 8 november kommer att regera landet och influera världspolitiken fram till år 2022. Det kommer att bli ansträngande. Under detta decennium ska svåra utmaningar hemmavid och från omvärlden pareras.

Den kanske största och svåraste frågan är hur länge ett alltmer pluralistiskt samhälle och dess intellektuella – konstnärer, författare och forskare – kan begränsas i sitt sanningssökande av den leninistiska enpartistaten. Kommer kraven från ett framväxande civilsamhälle med rötter i både arbetar- bonde-, och medelklass mötas med våldsam repression – eller med ny vilja till kompromisser, dialog och reformer? Kommer förväntningar från utlandet på ett ansvarstagande och än öppnare Kina mötas av lyhördhet, eller mer av det nationalistiska trummande som ljudit under den senaste tiden?

En stor berättare och skildrare av den kinesiska samtiden som Mo Yan skulle ha mycket intressant att säga om dessa viktiga frågor. Men troligen tiger han hellre, som när han tillfrågades om författarkollegan och numera Nobelpriskollegan Liu Xiaobos belägenhet i fängelse. I så fall ger det eftertryck åt pseudonymen som mannen som föddes som Guan Moye 1955 bär. På kinesiska betyder nämligen Mo Yan ”tala inte” eller om man så vill – ingen kommentar. För två år sedan stod Liu Xiabos stol tom under prisceremonin i Oslo. När Nobelpriset åter tilldelas en kinesisk medborgare kommer någon att sitta på avsedd stol, men vad kommer den som sitter där att säga? Vad kan han säga?

Johan Lagerkvist är docent i kinesiska och forskare vid Utrikespolitiska institutet.

Denna text är ursprungligen publicerad i Svenska Dagbladet 12 oktober 2012 .


What happened to political reform in the second term of China’s Hu Jintao-Wen Jiabao administration?

In a recent blog-article by Deng Yuwen the outgoing leadership of Hu-Wen was given its score-card, titled “Ten grave problems”. Number ten was the problem of lack of political reform, after the original promising start. While we are waiting for the change of leadership to come in the 18.Party Congress in November, let us look at this aspect.

It is true that political reform efforts have stalled since 2008. As late as 2007, Wen had said: “Political reform, with the development of democratic politics as its goal, is one of the great reforms China is carrying out, the other one is economic reform.” Yet this year he is still only talking about it.

If we accept that there has been a lull in progress towards political reform, how can we explain it? I think many factors may play a part, whether historical, cultural, political, societal or international.

First of all, a lot has happened over the last 30 years, and the system may be in the process of digesting not only the five elections carried out in 660.000 villages since 1988, but also the reforms of elite politics introduced by Deng (rotation, age limits, etc), the increasing pluralism of institutions, the increased channels for political participation, the demise of the danwei, and the rise of associations and societies. Add to this the many local experiments with further reform, whether in transparency, more consultative elements, anti-corruption or intra-party democracy. Even the legal system has been strengthened by many different measures, and in spite of the persistence of party interference, there were 11 million ordinary and unremarkable court cases in 2010 in which people settled their differences, with the state too. The result is a changed political atmosphere, in which a wide range of opinions and lobbying compete, and the spectrum of debating positions rivals that of the US: from the strongly neo-liberal to the orthodox maoist. With the change to collective decision-making, away from one- man rule, an element of checks and balances has also been introduced. In the view of some researchers the result is a kind of “shadow pluralism”.

Secondly, the huge economic success China has had since 2003, with GDP increasing five-fold, and real income per capita 3-4 times, may also have delayed democratic reform. The increased self-confidence may have stimulated the view that China should find its own institutions, in the political sphere too. It takes more time, if you want innovation that is adapted to tradition, history and culture, rather than to copy somewhere else, like some East Asian states have done. Economic success is also a success for ‘incrementalism’, gradual reform, and so this is likely to be the preferred method. China is generally less hurried than is the case for western politicians plagued by short-term goals and impatient for immediate results. It is also likely to look for its own variant of democracy, probably a non-liberal, elitist democracy, a la Singapore, particularly after the disappointing recent performances of existing Western systems. Additionally, both its big philosophies, Confucianism and Daoism, stress stability and balance in the development of society. My point being that there are cultural factors affecting our perception and evaluation of China’s progress in the area of political reform.

Thirdly, a number of political factors may be affecting the progress of political reform. The ‘shadow pluralism’ and the existence of at least two different main factions may have had the effect of ‘representing’ interests and channelling important demands into the political system, in spite of its non-democratic character. The wide use of surveys, hearings, consultations, even deliberative democracy, has enabled the regime to be responsive. In David Shambaugh’s view, it has moved towards being an “eclectic state”, pragmatically drawing on a wide range of experiences, in an almost Darwinist “adaptive authoritarianism”. The fairly competent leadership and the ‘performance legitimacy’ maintained over the last decades: showing in economy, infrastructure, urbanisation, poverty reduction, global profile, etc. has increased regime legitimacy from other sources than democratic credentials.

Fourthly, more socio-politically grounded explanations of the delay in major political reform would look at its constituencies, the forces that would carry democratisation. The first problem is that there is low public interest: both winners and losers of reform and globalisation look to the Communist Party to protect their interests, whether in protection of private property, or in provision of some welfare. Their no. 1 priority is the legal system, equality before the law. The many justified local protests do not challenge the party or the system as such. The progressive parts of the middle class, which could be expected to champion political reform, ask what it would do for them. They are willing to demonstrate for their own interests, but not to riskily empower the 1000 mio people below them. In this way they are reminiscent of the elites in 19.th century Europe: “Democracy is a good thing, but let’s wait”. Class-alliances among Chinese workers, or across the urban-rural divide are also notoriously difficult. Actual opponents of democracy are perhaps mostly found among ministerial level functionaries and in government in the provinces. They are not pressured by the grass-roots, and would prefer to remain unaccountable technocrats. The leadership at the top can have a variety of interests in democratic reform: soft power, fighting corruption, surviving in power by adapting to the democratization of information, easing unification with Taiwan, stability in succession,etc.

Fifthly, international factors can also help understand the stasis in political reform efforts. A regime that feels safe and unthreatened is more likely to reform. Authoritarian regimes democratize when they do not feel threatened, like Taiwan and South Korea did. In the post Cold War period ‘liberal internationalism’ with its financial and other support of ‘colour revolutions’ and its military interventions, has delayed reform and strengthened hardliners. It seemed clear to the leadership that China was on the US list for ‘regime change’ too, and the result was extreme vigilance towards NGO’s and civil society phenomena. As late as April 2008, a White paper on political democracy was published, but then came the Tibet crisis, the Olympic circus, and finally the US financial crisis, which in itself was an argument for delaying reforms. There may also be an aspect of learning, namely from the experience of the “East Asian Model” prescribing economic modernisation first (under authoritarian or 1-party rule) and avoiding premature democratisation which has meant collapse in a number of countries, but waiting till it has a prospect of holding (Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Singapore?)

Summing up, democracy in China’s context is not an ideology, but a tool. It is likely that incrementalism will continue and that perhaps the most likely scenario for successful political reform is via the direct parliamentary elections in the 2600 counties becoming ‘real’ free from party meddling, then gradually moving upwards to national level. As for a multiparty system, one seasoned observer sees the appearance of powerful groups, each lobbying for the interests of their own group or region, these groups coalescing into permanent and open lobbies, and the lobbies one day converting themselves into full-blown parties. In any case, it will happen because an adaptive regime sees that it will advantage its own (elite) survival.

There could also be much less optimistic predictions of course. The reform-drive being bogged down by vested interests of the remaining big SOE (State Owned Enterprises), of leading families or of the middle class. The driving forces for reform –intellectuals, the private sector, the ‘new men’ of the presumed ‘Communist Youth League faction’ – weak because lacking a strong policy-entrepreneur and faced with a generally content urban population. In this case the most likely scenario is not collapse, but rather ‘muddling through’ – unless faced with a severe crisis which could affect legitimacy and make a platform for a renewed reform-drive.

Clemens Stubbe Østergaard
Aarhus University and NIAS Associate, Senior Research Fellow