(Yi Xianrong) Premier Wen Jiabao’s recent remarks, during his trip to Guangdong province in commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the “Southern Tour Speeches” made by former leader Deng Xiaoping, transmitted the unequivocal message to the outside world that the key to China’s successful settlement of its problems lies in continued reform and opening-up.
Deng, the architect of China’s reform and opening-up, made an inspection tour of Wuchang, Shenzhen, Zhuhai and Shanghai from Jan 19 to Feb 21, 1992 and made a series of remarks targeted at domestic misgivings over the country’s reform and development. During the month-long tour, he repeatedly told local officials that China should remain unwavering in its push for reform and opening-up otherwise it would come to a dead end. These remarks marked a milestone in the history of China’s reform and opening-up initiative.
By adopting and adhering to reform and opening-up, China is aiming to change its unreasonable laws and institutions to emancipate and boost productivity and promote the development of its economy and society. China’s enormous achievements and progress over the past three decades have been attained by means of this policy.
Deng’s biggest contribution lay in his push for the establishment and improvement of systematic arrangements through the reform and opening-up policy that offered every Chinese citizen the right to self-development and the creation of wealth, no matter whether urban employees or farmers, government officials or ordinary people. This has served as the driving force for China’s economic growth and the fundamental way for Chinese people to improve their living conditions.
However, slow steps in institutional reform have changed not only growth modes of residents’ wealth, but their concepts of wealth increase as well. Many people, especially young people, seem to expect their pockets to bulge overnight rather than pursuing wealth through long-term individual efforts. With such a twisted mentality, speculation, power-money deals and corruption remain rife. The emergence of the defiant and widely condemned “second generation” of officials and the rich is also the result of this social atmosphere. The prevalence of a get-rich-quick mentality will erode people’s belief that they can realize the increase of their wealth through their own efforts and will cause the whole country to forfeit its original driving force for economic and social development.
In adhering to reform and opening-up, China should review all its institutional arrangements in a bid to ensure all citizens enjoy an equal chance to carry out their economic and social activities. As concrete moves toward this, the country should gradually rescind its current unreasonable residence registration system so that farmers and dwellers in small and medium-sized cities can move freely at their own discretion. There also needs to be a sweeping overhaul of the current unequal education system in an endeavor to give every citizen equal access to better education.
Practical measures should also be taken to change the long-established appointment and removal system of officials to effectively check corruption and block the non-supervisory promotion of the “second generation” to higher positions disproportional to their performance.
Further reform and opening-up will also usher in some major adjustments and even a zero-sum game in the interest relations among the country’s different social groups. Any significant measures will inevitably result in the transfer of interests from one group to another, thus possibly inviting dissatisfaction and opposition from the affected groups.
For example, when the government adopted some regulatory measures to deflate the bubbles in the real estate market, some interest groups voiced disapproval and even took measures to try and foil the government’s efforts.
Reform and opening-up remain the driving force for China’s sustainable and healthy economic and social development, and serve as the fundamental way to offer all Chinese people an equal chance for self-development.
What the country should do is break the long-established interest relations among different social groups and prevent some interest groups from pursuing the institutionalization and legalization of their vested interests.
The author is a researcher with the Institute of Finance and Banking under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.