Reform expected to dominate talk at third plenum
Updated: 2013-11-12 00:36
By Chen Weihua in Washington, Zhang Yuwei in New York City and Li Xiang in Paris (China Daily)
How to increase reforms in the economic and social sectors is expected to dominate discussions at the ongoing Communist Party of China meeting, foreign observers said.
"Historically, the third plenary sessions are an opportunity for the new leadership to announce economic changes," Pierre Picquart, a China observer and professor of geopolitics at the University of Paris 8, told China Daily. "Therefore, the expected reforms will have an important effect on the global economy, international trade and finance."
The Third Plenary Session of the 18th CPC Central Committee began on Saturday and ends on Tuesday in Beijing.
The meeting's attendees are deliberating a host of major issues, including transformation of government functions, urbanization, opening-up in the financial sector, fiscal and tax system reform, and price regulation, overseas media reported.
"To promote the 'Chinese dream', China needs a full renewal in all areas: economic, financial, environmental, social and judicial. Also needed is a better balance between rich and poor provinces," Picquart said.
Cheng Li, director of research at John Thornton China Center at the Brookings Institution in the United States, said businesses will embrace abundant opportunities brought about by the CPC meeting.
"The decisions made at the plenum, especially those policies for deeper and more comprehensive market reform initiatives, will have far-reaching consequences. The Chinese private sector, especially the emerging middle class, and foreign companies that are interested in China-related businesses, will enormously benefit from this potentially landmark event."
However, China also faces a slew of challenges, Picquart said.
"Although China has become the second-largest economy in the world via the policy of reform and opening-up, it now faces significant problems, such as a faltering economy, a growing wealth gap, a deteriorating environment, and an increase in social conflicts.
"To continue China's success, the new round of reforms must be carried out with clear guidelines, both at national and provincial levels. It is also necessary to communicate with the public on the reforms and improve the visibility of government measures."
His remarks were echoed by Susan Shirk, a professor at the Graduate School of International Relations and Pacific Studies at the University of California, San Diego.
"I think we should have realistic expectations (toward the CPC meeting) so it is important to let people know that they are not going to get specific policies with a timetable. Instead, they are going to learn about the general direction and scope of — we hope will be — the third wave of economic reform," said Shirk, who was a US deputy assistant secretary of state during the Clinton administration.
She expects that the general direction set by the key meeting is reducing administrative controls and interference in the economy, thereby reduce corruption.
"But how far will it go? Could it even involve a reduction of a level of government? There is some speculation that they might reduce the authority of local governments over the courts — that's one rumor that's being circulated — which would be extremely significant from my perspective."
The professor said she also expects the CPC to deepen its reforms on fiscal and legal systems.
Christopher Johnson, senior adviser and holder of the Freeman Chair in China Studies at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, said he believes that there is a solid consensus among China's top leaders that they must move forward on reform.
"We've seen the new leadership making strong statements about reform. You have President Xi Jinping saying empty talk harms the nation. You have Premier Li Keqiang saying reform is like a boat going against the current, it must move forward or backward — these sort of forward-looking statements."
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Chen Jia in Los Angeles and Zhao Lei in Beijing contributed to this story.