HONG KONG: Ending months of speculation before the meeting of the Communist Party's Third Plenum and days of suspense since its conclusion, Beijing has revealed its reform plan. A 20,000-character document, called the "Decision on major issues concerning comprehensively deepening reforms," presents a sweeping 60-point plan to normalize China.
The plan leaves no doubt that reforms were designed to strengthen the party's control, with ever-so-cautious language hinting at an effort to contain internal critics on the left and wide-ranging decisions that go far beyond the economic realm.
In some ways, China is moving towards easing criticism on the human-rights front by abolishing the reeducation through labor prison camp system, easing the one-child-per-family restriction, and making the judiciary more professional and less dependent on local governments.
But the country is still run by the Communist Party, which shows few signs of willingness to ease its tight security grip. To safeguard control over implementation of reforms, the party established a new body called a Leading Small Group for the Comprehensive Deepening of Reform. No doubt, it will be headed by Xi Jinping, both party leader and state president.
In fact, to strengthen the party's hold on power, the plenum announced the setting up of a National Security Council which, unlike its American namesake, will be responsible for both external and internal security dealing, in the words of the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, Qin Gang, with "terrorists" and "separatists." Xi is likely to head this body, too.
Displaying cautiousness in moving towards a free market, Xi explained what was perhaps the most important economic reform made at the plenum: acceptance of the "decisive function" of the market in the allocation of resources. He recalled that in 1992, when the party put forward the concept of a "socialist market economy," its position was that the market "has a fundamental function in resource allocation under the macro-level control of the state." With the experience of the last 21 years, he said, the time has come "for creating a new expression concerning this issue" and so the "fundamental function" of the market in resources allocation has been changed to "decisive function."