“Small Government Big Society”

October 18th

The headline that China is testing a new political model in Shenzhen is an attention grabber when it appears in the same newspaper as an article that finds that its reassuring that China is continuing to be the largest purchaser (ahead of Japan) of U.S. Treasuries. In the same month that China was demonstrating that it was only rebalancing its portfolio and not actually reducing its $868 billion in net holdings. Prime Minister Wen Jiabao was giving a speech in Shenzhen (near Hong Kong.)

SHENZHEN, China—An experiment with political reform in Shenzhen, the city where China pioneered its economic opening, sheds light on an ideological debate playing out within the Communist Party as it holds an annual meeting in Beijing that will help to chart China’s political future.

Jeremy Page reports for the Wall Street Journal that

After more than six decades of stifling dissent—sometimes by force—the party is also using Shenzhen to test ways of strengthening public oversight of local government to root out corruption that the party itself admits has become the greatest threat to its grip on power.

It is a far cry from Western-style multiparty democracy, but this experiment—branded “small government, big society”—is seen by some leaders as a way to forge a new political model that maintains authoritarian rule while responding to the needs of an increasingly complex society.

The experiment involves free market reforms and government contracting with non-governmental entities to provide social services.  In an era in which China’s emerging economy is also reaffirming its role as our largest creditor new experiments in democracy are worthy topics for following closely.

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