President Xi Jinping told a recent meeting of the ruling Politburo that maintaining party discipline was their “top priority,” in a blunt warning that corruption is undermining the ruling elite’s legitimacy.
“But many liberals believe that his emphasis on toeing the line is also about reimposing ideological orthodoxy and dampening demands for political reform,” noting that Xi is “cleaving to the authoritarian mould of his predecessors,” says The Economist:
A powerful piece of evidence for this view is the party’s circulation in recent weeks of “Document Number Nine”. Its full contents have not been made public, but by all accounts it paints a grim picture of what the party sees as the threat posed by liberal ways of thinking. Officials high and low have been summoned to briefings on it. The message: denounce any dissent and be on guard against Westerners’ subversive plots and such “extremely malicious” notions as universal values, civil society and constitutional democracy.
The circular’s authors “consider the people’s legitimate calls for reform as activities by hostile forces and ‘dissidents’ and thus wrongly estimating and analysing the situation,” Yang Tianshi, a senior scholar and adviser, wrote in an essay shared online.
“Those who drafted document number nine fail to realise that those who demand the ‘protection’ and ‘implementation’ of the constitution refer to the (Chinese) constitution from 1982,” writes Yang. They don’t want “the American constitution, and also don’t want to abolish the 1982 constitution and get another one.”
“A country’s citizens demand the protection and implementation of their own constitution, what’s wrong with that? Why not?”
“Another sign of Mr Xi’s tough political line has been his campaign to persuade citizens to display ‘three self-confidences’: in China’s political system, in the party line and in party theory,” The Economist notes. “Most tweeting, blogging, consuming middle-class urban youngsters pay no attention to such exhortations. But would-be reformers do.”
Government vs Weiborati
In light of the recent release of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences’ Annual Report on Development of New Media in China, China Digital Times reports, David Wertime at Tea Leaf Nation looks at how the report was received by the leadership and people:
Chinese Weibo (i.e. microblogging) platforms drew over 15.5 billion visits and 73.9 billion page views spread over a total of 1.5 billion hours.
Those statistics would turn all but a handful of Internet titans green with envy. But the numbers’ significance transcends mere metrics: China’s Weibo sites have often acted as alarms to spot corruption, platforms to air citizen grievances in an authoritarian state, and even labs to test-market policy changes, which are sometimes pulled following online outcry.
To ask who comprises China’s most voluble Weiborati is thus, to some extent, to ask who speaks for a very influential part of Chinese society. [Source]
The report’s findings were summarized by Offbeat China:
1) 74.88% of China’s weibo users (from all weibo users, not only Sina Weibo) have an education level of high school or below.
2) Students account for the largest segment on weibos.
3) 92.2% have a monthly income of RMB 5000 yuan or less, among which the majority has no income at all. Again, because most are students. [Source]
“Optimists say it is only natural for Mr Xi to act tough in the political realm if he means to pass reforms that would take on powerful interest groups such as state-owned enterprises (SOEs),” The Economist notes:
His emphasis on following party orders may be partly aimed at political liberals. But it could be just as much a warning to SOE bosses that it is time to bite the bullet of reform. Unfortunately, one of the messages of Document Number Nine appears to be that calls for economic liberalism also pose a threat. Mr Xi is signalling in all directions.
China Digital Times is a grantee of the National Endowment for Democracy.