China Center Senior Fellow Cheng Li provides an update on the 17th Congress of the Chinese Communist Party, including an assessment of Hu Jintao's populist approach and relations with Taiwan. (See also Cheng Li's preview of the Congress.)
"Hu Jintao made a two and half hour speech at the Party Congress. He reaffirmed his populist approach, which is called Scientific Development with Harmonious Society and People Centered approach. We knew policy initiatives but now they have become the party’s platform. Basically, they wanted to reach out the general public to make a point that the party is still relevant to them, represents their interests. There’s some specific policy initiatives such as to give tax waivers for farmers, try to provide a social safety net because the previous social safety net was already gone And also try to provide basic health care, public health care. These are all important. He also talked about the pollution and the corruption these are also very much on people’s minds. Now let’s see whether his policies can be delivered, but it’s already become the party’s platform. To a certain extent, that’s a very important move. Moving away from Deng Xiaoping and Jiang Zemin‘s approach, which really represents the interests for the rich and the powerful, the so-called, 'Three Represents.' Basically for the coastal region, for those well-to-people, for the middle class but now they try to have a more balanced approach. Not only just in China’s coastal region but also in-land region, but also give more concern for those vulnerable social groups.
"Now his speech also made an interesting point about Taiwan. He said that China is willing to have a long term peace agreement. Of course the people in China talk about that but this is the first time from Hu Jintao, from the highest leadership. That may have implication for the future agreement about Taiwan issues. Let’s assume that Ma Ying-jeou will win the election in Taiwan next year. Even the DPP, the current ruling party, continues to be in power; this message is very important for them and they may find a way to deal with the tensions over the Taiwan strip."