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China must act with conviction

New leadership faces a painful trade-off between political power and economic and social prosperity

Gulf News

China’s newly-selected Communist party leadership knows what needs to be done to ensure continued economic and social development of the country.

The new secretary-general of the Chinese Communist Party, Xi Jinping, and other members of its standing committee, have made it clear that corruption, unnecessary bureaucracy and social unrest in the country must be tackled to ensure its stability. Others have highlighted environmental degradation, a lack of respect for the rule of law and human rights, as well as growing social inequality as threats to China’s future.

The question is whether the party and its leadership will have the courage of their convictions and undertake the necessary widespread reforms that will inevitably undermine their grip on political — and ultimately economic — power in what is now the world’s second largest economy.

Despite the rhetoric of reform and the sacking of a seemingly corrupt, high-profile party official, Bo Xilai — in a move that is perceived to be as much political as judicial — there have been few reports to indicate that the party has a coherent programme that will lead to a more open, equal and democratic country. This is essential if China is to maintain the high economic growth rate it needs to reduce poverty and social instability. The global economy continues to struggle with the fallout from the financial crisis, shrinking markets for Chinese exports and reduction in the flow of direct foreign investment. The only alternative for China is to get its massive population to spend and invest in the country. But, without greater social security and accountability for their political masters, people of China are accumulating their savings and moving it out of the country — much to the detriment of its economy. China’s leaders face a painful trade-off between political power and economic and social prosperity. The global economy is dependent on China as a manufacturing hub and market for commodities and services. It is hoped that China’s new leaders will make the right choices for all.