Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Friday, April 23, 2010

History for the old folks

It's probably not vital for understanding Chinese government and politics today, but for some of the old folks in the audience of China watchers, this is intriguing. It's almost the anniversary of the beginning of the 1989 demonstrations in China that caused so much trouble and created so much confusion. Premier Wen Jiabao has good things to say about the man whose death inspired the initial public demonstrations.

Confusion about the implications of Wen's statement illustrate how difficult it is to make sense out of an opaque political system.

Chinese Premier Offers a Tribute to a Reformer
[T]ens of thousands of Chinese took note on Thursday when a long and emotional tribute to Mr. Hu Yaobang— written by Prime Minister Wen Jiabao — was published Thursday in Renmin Ribao, the Communist Party’s official newspaper, otherwise known as People’s Daily

Mr. Wen’s flattering and public remembrance — splashed not just on the pages of People’s Daily, but on a clutch of popular national Web sites — appeared to some experts to nod not just to Mr. Hu’s legacy as a man of the people, but perhaps to the party’s now-quiescent band of liberals…

Once viewed as the most likely successor to Deng Xiaoping as China’s leader, he was forced out of power by party conservatives who claimed his “bourgeois” leanings threatened the country’s stability...

Analysts poring over that and other parts of Mr. Wen’s text were divided over their meaning. Some suggested it was an opening salvo in the political jockeying to choose China’s next generation of leaders, who will take office in 2012. Others saw in the essay a veiled jab at China’s current ruling elite, which has come under increasing fire for economic policies that, in some minds, favor the rich over average people.

The article could also be viewed as a calculated effort by China’s leadership to placate intellectuals, journalists and some retired party officials who still regard Mr. Hu as a reformist unjustly shunted aside by more risk-averse bureaucrats…

Analysts agreed that Mr. Wen’s eulogy was certainly screened and approved by the party’s top hierarchy…

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