Yu Jianrong, a Chinese scholar famous for his writings on social stability and reform, has composed a list of suggestions to the Chinese leadership. His ten proposals or suggestions, presented below, triggered heated responses and were read and re-posted widely on the Internet. The suggestions were also blocked and deleted from websites in China.
In November 2012, Foreign Policy named Yu Jianrong, who works in the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing, as one of the Top 100 Global Thinkers. He was described as a “rare Chinese academic who has taken up the challenge of defining how exactly China could change course.”
According to The China Story, a website that features analysis about China, Yu argues that ”China’s political fixation with ‘stability at all costs’ … breeds rigidity, discourages flexibility and innovation in responding to emerging social problems and, most importantly, hampers the development of more appropriate institutional responses to social conflict.”
The following essay by Yu was first published in April of 2013.
Yu’s suggestions are as follows:
1. The “Beautiful China” Must Not Remain a Mere Dream
That China faces a resource crisis as well as worsening pollution and environmental depletion was admitted at the 18th Party Congress. The causes of these crises, however, were not identified. If the government does not at all levels reform its deep-rooted habit of considering only short-term benefits and promoting predatory development, the intensifying environmental predicament will give rise to escalating social and political problems.
2. Corruption Must Not Be Allowed to Overwhelm China
Monopolization is the cause of today’s abuses of power. Political power in the hands of a minority has allowed and protected the spread of corruption. The ruling party promises anti-corruption efforts. President Xi said, “the party as well as the whole country will be jeopardized if corruption is not eliminated.” We should catch the “flies” as well as “tigers”; however, unless anti-corruption is carried out under the supervision of the people, all measures will be in vain.
3. The Constitution Must Not Be Used as Toilet Paper
Constitutionalism is the most important achievement in recent history. It’s core value is to balance state authority and maintain the rights of the people. Although China has a constitution, it lacks constitutionalism, as there is no authority at work to safeguard it save the whims of the leaders. Of course, using the constitution as toilet paper has consequences. Liu Shaoqi is an example of this.
4. The Youth Must Not Be Disenfranchised
At present, some problems have manifested regarding social mobility in China. The favored status of children of officials and the wealthy is becoming ever-more prominent, cutting off the upward paths of those below. How to support education of children from impoverished backgrounds, how to open more opportunities for younger generation, how to ensure fairness in the civil service system — this comprises the true meaning of the Chinese Dream. Should the needs of lower-class youth be ignored, the country will suffer from unrest.
5. Farmers Must Not Be Forced Into Vagrancy
China now has 120 million second-generation peasant workers, including over 40 million landless farmers. Some of their number got rich overnight due to land expropriation, but the overwhelming majority were simply deprived of their means of subsistence. The authorities currently see urbanization as the engine driving economic growth. It worries me that more farmers will as a result lose their fields and homes. In my view, urbanization ought to be a result of increased economic development, not a means of inflating GDP.
6. Fraud Must Not Be Taken as Confidence
Covering up the facts just brings false news even with daily simulcasting; coercion just brings false elections even if the candidate won all the votes; a promise of promotion just brings false loyalty even if everyone sings praise. A statesman’s confidence is the basis of public trust, personality and capacity for effective administration. He must respect the freedom of speech and should not put anyone behind bars for their personal statements; he must insist on fair competition and should have his political fate decided by votes.
7. The Oppressive System Must Not Be Used as a Tool to Govern the Country
The unconstitutional and inhumane forced labor system has long deprived countless citizens of their individual freedoms without any legal procedures and has been used by local governors to suppress citizens. The forced labor system should be abolished immediately. The hypocritical petition system has had numerous petitioners detained, tortured in forced labor camps, sentenced and sent to psychiatric hospitals, bringing harm to the judiciary as a whole. The system requires thorough reform.
8. The National People’s Congress Must Not Be Used as a Decoration
The National People’s Congress is plagued by false elections. Congress representatives are mostly administrative or judicial members instead of professionals. The duties of representatives are limited to their presence at meetings. The whole system has been reduced to formality. Such a vestigial Congress allows for ease of political monopoly, but fundamentally damages the legitimacy of the ruling party. Reforms should start with direct congressional elections at the county level. Universal suffrage should be established and regulations to perform the congress duty should be set up with the object of vacating the National People’s Congress of administrative and judicial officials.
9. Political Reform Advocates Outside the Party System Must Not Be Antagonized
That China will move to democracy and constitutionalism is a historical inevitability. Political reformers outside the ruling party detest the myriad instances of misgovernance in the system, yet still hope for peaceful and orderly change. But they have always been regarded by the privileged few as troublemakers who threaten the social stability. History shows us that when public demand for reform is rejected by the ruling class and driven to the opposition, the result is overturn through revolution.
10. Historic Responsibility Must Not Be Forgotten
It is the historic responsibility of the current authorities to turn China into an advanced country. They should be acutely aware of their mission instead of forcing the country to eke out a bare existence. They should strive to benefit all social strata rather than represent the exclusive interests of the privileged few. They should act as paragons of morality instead of synonyms for corruption. They should strive to leave their names in the annals of history instead of being the laughingstock of the people.
With research by Rebecca Chen and Amy Lien.