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China May Take a Lesson from ex-USSR
Examined from whichever angle, the mainland has entered a critical era. The watchword for this era must be "reform "and "transformation." We are not historical fatalist, not believing that everything will naturally turn bright. Nor do we believe that darkness will devour everything. The issue of a rising China will turn in what direction or to what institutional system it would transform itself, depends on the outcome of the various competing social forces in the country that interact with each other.

That China has entered a critical era can be seen from the internal and external circumstances that the country is facing. Before the convening of the just concluded Fifth Plenary Session of the ruling Chinese Communist Party's 17th National Congress, China has come under mounting international pressure to cut its huge trade surpluses with the rest of the world by sharply revaluing the Chinese yuan. This has forced China to take a serious look at its economic growth formula and seek sweeping changes.

Yet a change in China's economic growth formula would inevitably entail the need for reform in all economic and social sectors. They include wages, employment, social security measures, public health care, education, housing and assistance to the poor. Such sweeping reforms would certainly affect the people with vested interests. So it requires not only determination but also strong leadership.

Clearly the mainland leadership has seen the urgency of reform for the mainland. In an interview with this newspaper group in Taipei recently, leading mainland economist Wu Jinglian described how President Hu Jintao saw the issue of economic transformation. Hu, in a speech on the subject, Wu recalled, used the word "urgent" fifty times. Hu was quoted by Wu as saying that top government leaders "must foresee things clearly, take action with promptness and respond actively."

In the past year, Premier Wen Jiabao has repeatedly pointed out the need for political reform. One major point Wen made echoed what Deng Xiaoping once said: "All important reform would not succeed without being accompanied with institutional reform." In one of his speeches, Wen even warned that "stagnation and retrogression would only lead to a dead end."

In addition to top leaders, some senior military and media members in the year also have expressed views calling for Beijing to take bolder steps to undertake reforms. "Reform has become an irreversible trend for the mainland," this is a shared view among them.

Indeed, it has become apparent that the mainland must make change. Yet the question is how. Authorities could take the initiatives to launch new reforms. They could just passively respond for fear of provoking a backlash from the powerful conservatives.

Our concern is not without foundation. Recently, some state-run media of the mainland likened the awarding of the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize to mainland political dissident Liu Xiaobo to the awarding in 1975 of a similar prize to Soviet human rights fighter and famed scientist Sakharov, denouncing Liu's recent winning of the laurels as a similar Western conspiracy. We would like to see the issue from a different viewpoint.

When Sakharov won the prize, it was during the time that Brezhnev was in power (1964-1982). In the early years of his administration, Brezhnev successfully completed an Eighth Five-Year Plan. During this period, the former Soviet Union saw rapid growths in industrial and agricultural production and registered record high living standards. Such advances enabled the Soviet Union to narrow its gap with the United States.

However, Brezhnev failed to seize the "strategic opportunity" to launch sweeping reforms. On the contrary, he moved toward dictatorship, letting economic reform stagnate and the privileged classes consolidate their position. Moreover, Brezhnev enforced highhanded rule, suppressing his political opponents. What was hurting even more was that while the Soviet Union was suffering from a period of decline in political, social, cultural and scientific fields, the West at the time initiated a new wave of technology revolution.

The authorities in China, which once unreservedly leant toward the former Soviet Union, might have deep feelings in seeing its rise and fall.(






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