Two big stories came out of Asia last week: the typhoon and China’s plans for reforms. I will write a post about the typhoon soon. I want to wait and see what information comes in from the Philippines as the country and the world has a chance to take in what has happened. For now, we’re going to start with China’s upcoming reforms. We can take this seriously. The People’s Republic of China has a history of making policy changes.
First up, revisions of the population control policies. Based on the language in the Xinhua report, this is a revision of the law. There will still be laws restricting population growth, and Xi’s government is not in a hurry. The Xinhua article “China to Ease one-child policy” suggests incremental changes. It sounds like the Politburo wants the population to stabilize, rather than shrink or grow. Its no mystery why the government would do this. They need to offset China’s rapid aging. The only question remains when the changes become law. An article in the November 19 edition of Financial Times reports that reforms of the population control policy will be tempered to prevent a baby-boom. Something Financial Times reports suspect is unlikely anyway.
Next item; revisions to China’s criminal code. Xinhua titled the article "China to Abolish Reeducation through Labor," but from the article, its sounds like party congress discussed a general reform of China’s criminal code in order to protect citizens from abuse. Another article, published the same day, describes plans to reduce the number of capital crimes “step by step.” Ok, that’s actually a blurb. And contains about as much information as I’ve written here. All we can do is wait and see.
If you want to see for yourself, here is a Xinhua article that lists every reform the Party Congress laid out: China Issues Detailed Reform Roadmap. I’ll be writing a post dedicated to China’s proposed economic reforms. I think they deserve their own post.
Keep in mind, there is no schedule for when the reforms will happen, and according to Xinhua, the Communist Party qualified every announcement with talk about doing everything step by step. Like I said before, this is how the Chinese Communist Party prefers to go about its reforms, since Deng Xiaoping became Paramount leader. Henry Kissinger argued in On China that Deng chose careful, incremental reforms after the bad experience of Maoism, and it became even more deeply entrenched as China watched Gorbachev’s reforms become the very cause of the USSR’s dissolution. If Kissinger’s analysis is right, then Xi Jinping and his fellow elites fear that every change they make carries with it the risk of destroying them and everything the Communist Party has built. I think you can also see the influence of Sun Yat-sen in these policies. Sun believed that China would achieve republicanism incrementally, as the country modernized and education improved. Keep watching China.