Twofish's Blog

August 9, 2008

So what does reform mean anyway

Filed under: china — Tags: — twofish @ 3:33 pm

http://blogs.cfr.org/setser/2008/08/05/old-habits-die-hard/

Huizer: That should involve greater separation of party and state (very difficult to do and very risky not to do)

Separation of party and state was tried in the 1980’s. It worked very, very badly, and really I don’t see any reason to try it now. One thing that is interesting is to try to get someone that supports it to explain exactly why they think it is a good idea.

The system as it now exists has the actual orders going down the state hierarchy, but with the party being something of a “human resources” department in charge of figuring out who gets what state position. I don’t see any reason to have any quick, radical changes in the system, since it seems to work.

I do support strengthening the state and legal system so that if there are ever any bitter fights or power struggles within the party, that the whole thing doesn’t collapse (i.e. what happened in Russia), but I can’t think of any reasons to split the party and state. (And that includes human rights reasons, since I don’t think a split party/state will be more friendly to dissidents, and if it means less control over local officials, it may be even worse for political dissidents.)

Huizer: administrative (not entirely separate but high priority) reform of the rural sector

I’m really starting to really hate the word “reform” since it has become a feel-good word that really is starting to lose any meaning. In 1980, the term “reform” actually had some meaning in China since it meant the group of people that didn’t believe in revolutionary Maoism or Stalinist economic policies. Since no one in the Chinese government is a Maoist or a Stalinist today, it means that everyone is a “reformer” and when everyone is a reformer then the term doesn’t have any meaning any more.

Let’s step back a bit. What *exactly* do you think ought to be changed in rural China? I think that if you ask a dozen people what exactly “rural administrative reform” means, you will get a dozen answers, and arguing over specific policies is the conversation that needs to happen.

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