Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao has been the face of the Liberal wing of the CCP for quite some time, but his power and influence have always been topics of contention.
With less than a year left in his term, he’s been getting restless. Reform has stagnated and he’s not pleased. There have been a number of recent incidents which make a compelling case that he’s either trying to portray himself as being on the ‘right’ side of history, or he’s genuinely upset but incapable of making meaningful change.
Here’s the first example – at a recent speech to school students in Tianjin, Wen told the students about the horrible times his family had endured under Mao’s rule. Criticizing the Chairman, even indirectly, is something Chinese leaders simply do not do. When noted economist Mao Yushi penned a scathing critique of Mao, he received threats and a group of Maoists campaigned to have him put on trial. For Wen to openly admit that Mao’s rule was a hellish period for Chinese citizens was a very, very bold move.
This is not an isolated example of Wen admitting that things are going awry in China.
At a recent speech at an economic summit in Dalian, Wen prefaced his comments on structural reform by saying “I feel a strong sense of responsibility to present my views on various issues in an accurate and candid manner.”
He then went on to say: “we must govern the country by law. The most important mission of a ruling party is to abide by and act in strict accordance with the Constitution and the laws. The Party should not replace the government in governance, and problems of absolute power and over-concentration of power should be redressed.”
He also spoke about how crucial an independent judiciary is, as well as the importance of citizens being able to vote and oversee government affairs. Some commentators have noted however, that state media ignored a lot of his commentary.
The speech echoed comments he made in London in June, which many dismissed as being rhetoric without action. It would seem at this point, that he isn’t pleased with this state of affairs, but there isn’t much he can do beyond ratcheting up the rhetoric.