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Jul 21st


By Prabhu Guptara

Posted in Current events
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I have been thinking about President Hu’s comments at the recent APEC summit, in which he seemed to say that the new generation of Chinese leaders are committed not only to a greater liberalization in the Chinese economy, but also to transform the government so that it is bound by the rule of law and genuinely serves the people.

On the last matter: there is little doubt that, in spite of all the corruption there is in the Chinese system, the system has tried more or less successfully, to serve the people at least at some minimal level.

But I wonder whether the new generation of leaders will really be able to submit themselves to the rule of law. Historically, in Chinese culture, with very few exceptions, law is what the rulers have made for others to be subject to – not for themselves to be subject to…

Premier Wen went further when he promised that the State would retreat from spheres that should be regulated by the market, by civic groups, by industry groups or by trade groups.

These are most encouraging statements. However, in Chinese culture, what is said for public consumption is not necessarily what is really going to happen. So let us be thankful that at least the sentiments at this time are in the right direction. But we have to wait and see what the new generation of Chinese authorities, who take over in 2012, actually do.

If they deliver on these sorts of sentiments, then China will have finally started moving in the direction of being, not merely a country that plays fast and loose according to whatever benefits itself, but a country worth counting as a modern civilized nation which will do what is right even when it is costly to itself.

Civilization is built only when people stop looking at what is in their own short-term interest, and start being willing to pay the cost of doing what is right.

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