The Yomiuri Shimbun (Nov. 10, 2012)
Concern grows over China's continued hard-line policy
It is now obvious that China's new generation of Communist Party and national leaders will continue to pursue policies aimed at bolstering both its economic and military might, seeking to become "a rich country with a strong army."
The Congress of the Communist Party of China, which meets every five years, is under way.
During the ruling party convention, Vice President Xi Jinping is expected to be inaugurated as general secretary and a significant majority of the top echelons of China's leadership will be replaced.
The Congress is of great importance as it will set the path China will take over the next 10 years.
In a report on the party's action policy over the next five years delivered at the opening of the Congress on Thursday, President Hu Jintao, who is due to step down as general secretary, affirmed Beijing's resolve to accelerate modernization of its military to defend Chinese territory, and strongly emphasized the nation's determination to protect its maritime interests.
The remarks by Hu seemed to be addressing the heightened tensions between Japan and China over Japan's recent nationalization of the Senkaku Islands, several thorny territorial disputes in the South China Sea, and the new diplomatic policy of the United States to refocus its strategic attention on Asia.
Simmering anger over injustice
There is every sign China's hard-line stance toward Japan over the Senkakus will continue.
Japan, for its part, must support mid- and long-term strategies toward China by strengthening ties with Southeast Asian nations based on the Japan-U.S. alliance.
In the speech, Hu also stated a goal of doubling China's gross domestic product by 2020 and per capita incomes nationwide in a decade, both compared to 2010 levels.
To achieve this, China must maintain a yearly growth rate of about 7 percent. Since the days of hard-charging growth appear to be in the past, fulfilling these goals will not be easy.
Over the past decade, China has successfully hosted a summer Olympics and a World Expo, as well as claimed from Japan the No. 2 spot in terms of economic size.
However, in the shadows of spectacular growth lies a widening gap between rich and poor, as well as deepening public anger over inequities in the administration of justice and rampant corruption among local bureaucrats. Violent demonstrations have erupted over these issues in many parts of China.
Hu's declaration that the government will do its utmost to shrink income disparities by "deepening reform of income allocation systems" likely came out of a strong sense of urgency over the matter.
People aged 60 or older accounted for 12.5 percent of China's population in 2009, and this number is projected to rise to 18 percent by 2020. Further delays in improving the social safety net and related matters could easily stir up social unrest.
Hidden power struggle
In the national Congress, the party's platform is set to be revised to upgrade Hu's "scientific development concept," which is designed to realize a well-balanced, sustainable society, to the level of Mao Zedong thought and the theories of other supreme leaders of China.
The move is seen as reflecting Hu's desire to retain influence even after retiring from the country's top post.
The announcement of the schedule for the Congress was delayed an extraordinary full month compared to past party conventions. The delay seems to have been primarily due to trouble in agreeing over how Bo Xilai, the former chief of the southwestern city of Chongqing, should be punished. Bo has already lost his party membership over allegations of massive corruption and other reasons.
Power struggles within the Communist Party were likely behind the delay, though what exactly happened remains murky.
It appears the Congress will not address political reform, including easing of control over freedom of speech.
Hu said in his speech that Beijing is prepared to "proceed actively as well as appropriately in the task of reforming the political system." But we cannot help but wonder how successful China will be in materializing any meaningful reform.
The new party leadership under Xi will begin its rule burdened with a heavy task load.
(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Nov. 9, 2012)