【明報專訊】CELEBRATING the 40th anniversary of Reform and Opening-up, General Secretary of the Communist Party of China Xi Jinping has given a speech emphasising the need to broaden China's reform while adhering to the path of socialism with Chinese characteristics. China's reform and opening-up is a significant event in world history. It signals that China is finally on the path to modernisation after more than a hundred years of struggle. The awakening of the giant after a century's sleep has subverted the western-dominated world order and the dominant paradigm of development. Many western academics, eager to understand this "red swan" phenomenon, have conducted studies into the Chinese model. Over the past four decades, China has achieved brilliant results in the modernisation of such areas as industries and technologies. But obviously, efforts in establishing the rule of law are still inadequate. To help China become a modernised major power by the middle of this century, the "substructure" is of course an important factor but building a good "superstructure" is even more crucial. Only by strengthening the rule of law properly can the country win corresponding respect from the global community.
The dissolution of the Soviet Union is described by Western academics as a destined "grand failure" because of the lack of self-perfection ability in socialist systems. However, the success of China's reform and opening-up has presented a black swan (or "red swan") case that subverts all the conventional theories in the west. Many experts do not believe the "China collapse theory" easily anymore. Nor do they continue to think China's reform and opening-up will definitely make it more like the West.
More and more western experts have set aside their preconceived ideas and tried to comprehend the Chinese path to success. Some academics suggest dropping the democracy-autocracy dichotomy for understanding Chinese politics and focusing instead on the flexibility in Beijing's policy-making process. Some say China is neither a democracy nor an autocracy, but a "meritocracy". Some even describe China as evolving towards what is called a "phantom democracy". Despite the absence of democratic elections and the iron-fisted crackdowns on online link-up activities in China, the government does care about online public opinion and that has motivated the authorities to be more responsive to public opinion, in a way quite similar to the elected politicians who care about their votes. Many Western experts agree that Beijing has indeed embarked on a unique path.
Over the forty years of Reform and Opening-up, China has certainly improved to some extent regarding the rule of law. That is most evident in the protection of private property rights. In recent years, the central government has also implemented the judicial accountability system. All cases involving wrongful convictions shall be investigated to ascertain where the responsibility lies, so as to "give the public the impression that there is justice and fairness in every judicial case." Nevertheless, in whatever politically sensitive cases, the despotic side of the state apparatus is on full display.
Take the example of human rights lawyer Wang Quanzhang who was charged with "subversion of state power". Arrested in 2015, he has been put under detention and lost touch with the outside world for more than three years, without any court procedures launched to deal with his charges. No matter how the authorities assert "the case is being handled in accordance with the law", ordinary people may easily doubt if the authorities are concocting excuses for its long-time deprivation of a person's freedom without trials.
Even though China's hard power has continuously increased in recent years in the political, economic and military aspects, it has failed to strengthen its soft power all along. It is true that people's prejudice against China may be one of the reasons behind that. Still, Beijing should do a good job of enhancing the rule of law, otherwise it will find it difficult to earn the respect on a par with its state power from the international community.
paradigm﹕a typical example or pattern of sth
despotic﹕connected with or typical of a ruler with great power, especially one who uses it in a cruel way
apparatus﹕the structure of a system or an organisation, particularly that of a political party or a government