China may face major changes in the near future. Prime Minister Wen Jiabao said that if the country does not conduct political reforms, China risks to dramatically slow down its economic growth. However, in parallel China will increase spending on the army and police.
"Now the reform came to a decisive phase. Without success in reforming the political system, the reform of the economic system cannot be followed through, and the results that have already been achieved may be lost. New problems emerging in the society may not be fundamentally solved. There is a likelihood of the repetition of historical tragedies of the Great Cultural Revolution," Wen Jiabao said at the end of the session of the NPC.
At the same time, the head of the Chinese government made a reservation that in his vast country the reforms and the "policy of socialist democracy" can only be carried out in accordance with the internal conditions and with the support of the population. This support seems to be there: Wen Jiabao highlighted the positive experience of self-government in the Chinese countryside, including the direct election of heads of village administrations.
The comparison provided by Wen is no coincidence. "The Cultural Revolution" conducted in the 1966-1976 by Mao Zedong and his comrades was seemingly aimed at the rise of China. However, it resulted in subjecting of 100 million people to all sorts of repressions. The economy was in decline, and cultural heritage suffered as well. The fight against the "useless" sparrows turned into a disaster because there was simply no one to destroy harmful insects that occupied the peasants' fields.
Youth squads of Red Guards became notoriously known for the persecution of political opponents of Mao - professors and cultural workers. Anyone could be approached in the street and was expected to show the Quotations of Mao. There were multiple cases of physical abuse. Chairman Liu Shaoqi, general secretary of the CPC Central Committee and the future architect of economic reforms Deng Xiaoping and other senior government and military officials were subject to repressions in particular.
Wen Jiabao made it clear that the repetition of the cult of personality and the era of lawlessness sanctioned by the authorities is not the way for modern China. What about the liberalization of the political system? So far the authorities in China are not being elected by a universal secret ballot like in the West or Japan, South Korea or Taiwan. None of the opposition parties are registered. At the same time the ranks of the Communist Party are being replenished by the foreign, in terms of class, entrepreneurs.
All protests against the government are severely suppressed. The most famous case occurred in June of 1989 in the central area of Beijing's Tiananmen Square. The Western media have said then that the protesters wanted democracy. Yet, eyewitnesses claimed that it was largely a protest against the excesses in the reforms initiated in the late 1970s by Deng Xiaoping. Regardless, those who decided to challenge the authorities were punished in the most severe form.
In recent years, the greatest source of concern for the authorities is the situation in two national regions - Tibet and Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. Significant unrest in the former took place in 2008, and a year later - in the latter. Tibetan and Uighur nationalists claiming infringement of their rights by the Chinese are actively supported in the West. However, the unrests are harshly suppressed without consideration of the reaction of the outside world. At the same time, the U.S.'s measures against China are limited to exclusively verbal ones and sanctions are not resorted to.
It may be that talks of political reform as a means to support the economy are forced by the indicators of the economic growth. In 2010, China's economy grew by 10.3 percent, last year - by 9.2 percent. This year, Premier Wen Jiabao predicts growth of 7.5 percent and says that this number is not so bad. His new goal is to make a round of technical modernization with the least possible damage to the environment.
"The Chinese economy is capable of overcoming such problems as lack of coordination, imbalance and instability. We are on the path of quality growth that, in essence, is in the interests of the world economic development. We need to think about the ways to achieve greater benefits with the same level of economy and provide even more benefits to the people. It is our goal," said Wen Jiabao. Under the benefit of the people he possibly meant political reforms.
The Chinese also thought about safety and prevention of riots and events like the "Arab Spring" or Tiananmen Square. Premier Wen Jiabao at the National People's Congress said that spending on public safety will increase by 11.5 percent and amount to $111 billion dollars. The money will be spent on improving the financial security of the police, courts and prisons. The fight against corruption will be enhanced as well.
Their fears are not groundless. The increase of unemployment and prices, dissatisfaction with corruption, and the growth of social stratification create a potentially unstable environment. For example, the Gini coefficient that reflects the degree of social stratification has reached 0.46, while in order to consider the situation dangerous enough, it should be at 0.4.
Incidentally, spending on homeland security for the second consecutive year in China is higher than defense expenditures. However, the latter, too, will grow this year by 11.2 percent to 106 billion dollars. Last year they rose by 12.7 percent. It is possible that the growth of spending on defense and security is due to the economic slowdown. Some of the funds had clearly been redistributed in favor of this.
China's actions are quite understandable. The United States announced the Asia-Pacific region a major area of its military and strategic interests. It is no secret that many U.S. analysts say China is the main enemy. What are the guarantees that the U.S. will not be tempted to intervene in the affairs of China? Washington is skilled at arranging "Color Revolutions," and the Chinese believe that some insurance would not hurt.
Multidirectional actions stated by Wen Jiabao seem quite logical. Some relief in the political sphere will alleviate some of the stress and ensure economic growth. The growth is required to provide sufficient funds for the army, internal security, and civilian production, and reduce the reasons for social unrest. All this together will strengthen China and make it less vulnerable to internal threats similar to unrest in Tibet and Xinjiang, and to the external threat, especially coming from the United States.
We are observing a proven method of carrots and sticks in action. This is an evolution without shocks that China had more than enough of in its long history.