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Wed, Mar 5, 1997
PRC Collective Leadership

also: Taiwan's perspective on the 'Taiwan question'; more water; re-evaluating Tiananmen; and more. . .

Jiang Zemin: we have more stories on the transition afoot in China's political system as Jiang Zemin et al. forge a new identity for themselves. The Far Eastern Economic Review devotes much of its March 6 issue to these issues.

The re-configuration of power around a committee of leaders with President Jiang Zemin at the core might be exactly "what China needs," writes the Review's Matt Forney, "for it could bring fundamental changes that modernize governance." Forney says, "The team members might not like each other, but they are not ideological enemies and have shown they can work together."

Forney also believes, in the event of a national crisis and loss of confidence in Jiang's leadership, Jiang would probably be effective in handling such a situation, because of his political acumen and because of the composition of the leadership itself: the president is regarded as a 'technocrat', and the same could be said of Li Peng and other key officials in this new collective leadership. With such backgrounds it would be difficult for them to go outside their "tight circles" for support, says one observer quoted by Forney, and this benefits Jiang and encourages a degree of unity and cooperation.

The real forces motivating China are economic, not strategic, and the PLA has accordingly become a "less central player," another analyst tells Forney. However, when the PLA perceives a threat against China's security or its own interests, then it becomes a real political force, notes Forney. During the run-up to last year's presidential election in Taiwan, the military pressed Jiang Zemin to take a pro-active and hard-line stance, pushing for menacing war games in the Taiwan Strait. In this instance "Jiang conceded his grip on foreign-policy to them," writes Forney.

The article also mentions the small town of Zhangjiagang situated three hours west of Shanghai. It has become Jiang Zemin's model for a "spiritual civilization," explains Forney. There clean streets, prohibitions against spitting and other 'unclean' behaviour have become a way of life and a model for the entire nation. The term "spiritual civilization", Forney writes, is a "catchall phrase for strong ideological control and a strain of Confucian obedience to temper the capitalist excesses that Deng unleashed". Zhangjiagang stands in stark relief to Shenzhen, the city on the border with Hong Kong and a symbol (and some might say a creature) of the forces unleashed by Deng's economic reforms. Forney notes, Chinese intellectuals are suspicious of such a nebulous idea as "spiritual civilization", whereas what Shenzhen represents is quite clear.

(Note: the Far Eastern Economic Review on-line service is free, but requires that users register with them and login, and therefore first-time users should first introduce themselves on the FEER registration page.)

Party politics: we get a glimpse of how the new 'collective leadership' is working together to forge a new identity for itself in the wake of Deng's passing: a China Daily story entitled 'President calls for solutions' reports on how President Jiang Zemin, Premier Li Peng, Qiao Shi, whom the paper bills as "China's top lawmaker", and Vice-Premier Zhu Rongji met with provincial delegates at the National People's Congress (NPC). The article has obvious 'propaganda' value to it and is accordingly instructive.

The leaders met with different delegates and had different messages to convey. Some interesting notes: With words in line with Deng's maxim of "Seeking truth from facts," Jiang Zemin said to delegates from Hunan, "Problems encountered in practice can only be further understood in practice, and correct solutions to problems can only be sought in practice."

The paper also notes, Jiang singled out water conservancy efforts as especially important to the mainly agricultural economy there (See below the Wed. Feb 26 and Sat. Mar 1 additions for more information on Water).

Li Peng talked with delegates from Shaanxi province and reportedly stressed the need for the province to provide its people with adequate food and clothing as first steps in alleviating poverty there, writes the paper. Shaanxi is a mountainous province in China's northwest and has been touched little by the economic reforms.

Qiao Shi emphasized increased economic development and reform when he met with delegates from south-west China's Guizhou Province.

Zhu Rongji met with Fujian provincial delegates and called for the banking sector to strengthen its control over issuing loans. He said, banks should make greater efforts to re-call non-performing loans.

Both Jiang and Li said, more reforms in the state-owned enterprises would be needed. Jiang also said, Deng Xiaoping and others had made a "significant decision" to develop the eastern region first, namely in Guangdong, in order "to bring along and advance the eventual development of the whole country to achieve common prosperity," the paper quotes Jiang as saying.

Taiwan: Julian Baum, the Far Eastern Economic Review Taipei correspondent, offers the Taiwan point of view on the "Taiwan problem" now that Deng has died. Baum notes, Deng was able to suppress those who wanted a faster solution to the Taiwan problem, but it is now unclear whether Jiang will be able to suppress nationalistic pressures to reclaim the island nation.

An interesting piece of information: in our Thu, Feb 20 issue we reported that President Li Tung-hui's office had sent condolences to Deng's family. But we now learn from the Baum article that the Taiwan's Government Information Office also released a "White Paper" calling for the mainland to recognize, as Baum explains, "the reality of a divided China with two separate governments as a starting point for dialogue".

Hong Kong: the Review explains why Deng's death didn't 'rattle' the Hong Kong stock market.

Water: bonds for financing the Three Gorges Dam Project on the Yangzi River sold out in five days and were valued at US $120 million; the project is also ahead of schedule, reports the China Daily. The story also has more information about environmental issues and silting in the dam. Guo Shuyan, deputy director of the State Council Three Gorges Project Construction Committee, said that the dams would operate within 86 percent of their capacity, despite the problem of silting.

Tiananmen: the Far Eastern Economic Review also reports on the reevaluation of the Tiananmen disaster. According to the Review, it will be a few more years until the Party reverses its verdicts and rehabilitates officials, intellectuals and others cashiered in the aftermath of the crackdown. The Review reports that changes are already in progress, as language used to describe the massacre is changing and the government addresses two grievances on the minds of the protestors in 1989, "raging inflation and widespread corruption."

A full-reversal will likely not occur, explains the Review, because of how it would fracture the Party. But the incident's current billing as a "counter-revolutionary" act could be softened in the future, paving the way for the return of Zhao Ziyang and others.

Tibet: Qian Qichen, vice-premier and foreign minister, said that Tibet is vital to the defence of China, reports the China Daily. We may understand this rather short article in light of the pending visit to Taiwan of the Dalai Lama and, perhaps, the attention brought to the Walt Disney Corp. over its upcoming movie on the region.

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China Informed

a news service focused on China, Taiwan and Hong Kong
©1997 Matthew Sinclair-Day