The rapid ‘development’ of China since the ’70s has been a compressed and accelerated version of what the West took 100 more years to do, and the result is the Chinese have the exact same problems: a wrecked environment, growing income inequity, and a corrupt elite controlling power and public policy. Wen Jiabao is stepping down from his role as prime minister, and he touched on these issues in his farewell speech, but only very, very gingerly.
Andrew Jacobs and Chris Buckley, China’s Wen Gives Final Speech as Prime Minister
But Mr. Wen, and the departing president, Hu Jintao, leave behind a host of nettlesome problems, including a perilous wealth gap and an economy increasingly dominated by state-owned enterprises and a privileged elite. Increasingly urgent, too, is the pollution that has fouled the nation’s water, soil and air, a point underscored by the noxious haze that settled over the capital on Tuesday.
“Development is still the key to solving all our problems,” he said.
But the speech, his last state-of-the-nation address before he retires at the end of the 13-day congress, was notable for what was missing. In contrast to his speeches of years past, there was no mention of political reform and only a passing reference to the rampant corruption that Communist Party leaders have acknowledged could threaten their hold on power. Instead, Mr. Wen, famous for his liberal pronouncements, coolly reaffirmed the party’s heavy-handed approach to the nation’s political and economic affairs.
“China is still in the primary stage of socialism and will remain so for a long time,” he said.
Meaning: more of the same for the next five years.