Saturday, 17 March 2012

China also wants to reform politically, what are we waiting for?

As a preparation of the post LKY-era, Singapore should engage in political reform – moving away from a system that is so much associated with Lee Kuan Yew’s successes and failures.  Moving ahead, the new political normal should go back to the basic democracy – power back to the people.   The new order is People first and Economics second – the origin of the People’s Action Party.    

China wants to have political reforms so that they can avoid the tragedies of Cultural Revolution.  More importantly, the Chinese Communists Party hopes to stay in power by reforming itself.  
Some may argue this has nothing to do with Singapore. We don’t have Cultural Revolution and we are not a one-party state.  Furthermore, we don’t have tragedies like Cultural Revolution. So, what is the need?   

However, we do operate like a one-party state. We do have the ISA and political prisoners. We do have the state-control media and our economy is run like a central planning near monopoly of GLCs.   

Fortunately or unfortunately, Singapore has developed into a stage that we need to do things differently from the past. As what Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao told a news reference: ‘China needs not only economic reform but also political structural reform, especially the reform of the leadership system of the Party and the government.’

Yes, the Party and the government, so do the PAP and the Singapore government.

China realises that they can no longer use economic development to solve their problems.  They have to bring up their development to a higher level – politically, socially and mentally.

Our long overdue reforms

Based on our economic development, political reform in Singapore should take place 10 or even 20 years ago.  Then we thought of Swiss standard of living, and indeed when Goh Chok Tong became Prime Minister, we did see some lights of liberation. However, this freedom was short-lived and soon it was back to square one.

Till now, we have yet to achieve the Swiss standard of living even though our income per capita is quite close to the Swiss.  Not only we do not have the Swiss standard of living, we certainly are quite far behind from the Swiss standard of political freedom and system.

The political reform in Singapore is far overdue.  Our political system is in stagnation while our economic system and development achieve tremendous progress.  Like the rich-poor gap, the gap between economic and political development becomes bigger and bigger.  Can this situation sustain forever?

Not only our political system never progress with time, it seems to turn backward.  When we gained independence in 1965, we have ISA, it still exists today.  However, when our economy develops upward, our political development goes backward.  The PAP keeps on adding new political restrictions and controls to their advantages, for example, the introduction of GRCs, boundary changes, presidential elections and the required certificates to run for the office.  In addition, the PAP creates monopolies – the 3-in- 1instant coffee power type of political relationship (the PAP, union and government), the monopoly of media and the monopoly of GLCs.         

The CCP knows that their long-term survival depends on political reforms and for China to continue to progress and develop; they just cannot let their political system remains unchanged.  They realise political change will not only affect the CCP but also the whole China.  And any uncertainty in China will affect not only Chinese people but the whole world.

The PAP should think more about Singapore and Singaporeans.  Opening up political system and engaging in political reforms are good for the PAP too as it can face the real challenges and convince Singaporeans that they are real fighters and fight to win in elections.        

Below is the full report about Wen’s view on political reforms from Shanghai Daily on 15 March 2012. It is not only a refreshing piece but a reminder to Singapore and the PAP. 

[[Premier Wen Jiabao warned yesterday that turmoil that engulfed China during the so-called "cultural revolution" could re-emerge unless the country tackles political reforms.

In a three-hour news conference, Wen said China needs not only economic reform but also political structural reform, especially the reform of the leadership system of the Party and the government.

Wen warned that historical tragedies like the "cultural revolution" may recur if the country fails to push forward political reform to uproot problems occurring in society.

"Now reforms in China have come to a critical stage," Wen said, warning: "Without successful political reform, it's impossible for China to fully institute economic reform and the gains we have made in these areas may be lost, and new problems that popped up in the Chinese society will not be fundamentally resolved, and such historical tragedies as the "cultural revolution" may happen again in China."

The "cultural revolution" was 10 years of anti-establishment and radical egalitarianism from 1966-1976 that spiraled into violence which saw millions persecuted and many Party and government leaders jailed, sent into internal exile or left to die.

Wen noted that after the crackdown on the Gang of Four, which included Jiang Qing, the wife of Chairman Mao Zedong, the Party adopted resolutions on many historical matters and decided to conduct reforms and opening up. Still, he said, the mistakes of the "cultural revolution" and feudalism have yet to be fully eliminated.

"The reform can only go forward and must not stand still, much less go backwards because that offers no way out," Wen said.

He said he had addressed the topic of political structural reform in China on many occasions in recent years.

He said his long interest in political reform comes from "a strong sense of responsibility."

As the economy continues to develop, Wen said, such problems as income disparity, lack of credibility and corruption have occurred.

The premier said he believed that any member of the Party and government officials with a sense of responsibility must fully recognize that further reform is "an urgent task" for China.

"I know very well that the reform will not be an easy one and the reform will not be able to succeed without the consciousness, the support, the enthusiasm and creativity of our people," Wen said.
(Shanghai Daily, 15March 2012)]]

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