Cheng Li: 18th Party Congress’ Third Plenum another Turning Point in China’s Economic Development

The Third Plenum of China’s 18th Communist Party Congress ended earlier this week. The meeting was highly-anticipated as a landmark event in China’s economic reforms.

Cheng Li, senior fellow and director of research for the John L. Thornton China Centerspoke with following the event:

It’s very much in line with President Xi Jinping’s Chinese dream … the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation. And at the same time, probably more important, is to promote [the] middle class and also allow the people from the lower class to have the opportunity to obtain middle class status. …

I do see this is a wonderful opportunity. This is another turning point in China’s economic development. If in the previous decade we did not see the expansion of the middle class, this is the beginning of another wave of private sector development. There is no question about that. Because party leadership embraced the idea. This is already being seen as the mandate of the Xi Jinping administration.

However, in a new piece for BloombergLi criticizes China’s top leadership for stopping short of “far reaching” reforms to “check official graft,” including asset disclosure. However, he notes some “major policy shifts,” including greater judicial independence:

Under the current system local judges answer to local Party Chiefs, who exert political pressure on their decisions. Under the rule of Bo Xilai, Chongqing city’s high court almost completely followed Bo’s orders. Abuse of power and police brutality became rampant in the city. In the future, vertical control of local courts by the national judiciary should strengthen the rule of law.

Prior to the plenary session, Li and Ryan McElveen wrote that the pessimistic views about some “hyperbolic predictions” failed “to capture the leadership’s momentum, sense of urgency, and collective understanding of the need to embark on big, bold and broad reforms to gain public support before it’s too late.”

This followed a recent event, hosted by the China Center, in which Brookings experts addressed the plenum and more broadly China’s commitment to reform. Li along with China Center Director Jonathan Pollack, Senior Fellow David Dollar, and Fellow Erica Downs participated in the event.

Get more research about China from the John L. Thornton China Center and also the research topic page.