Surely, this cannot be pure rhetoric and must mean something. Is the reform faction in the party gaining strength?
Wei: Premier Wen is a cautious, calculating, and seasoned politician. He does not like to stir up conflict. He has managed to thrive inside the party despite the fact that, back in 1989, he accompanied then-party chief Zhao Ziyang to Tiananmen Square to meet with the students on a hunger strike. Yet, he wasn’t punished and has risen to his current position.
It seems the custom in recent years within the Communist Party is to speak about reform when you are just about to exit the political arena. Speaking out when exiting power is really part of a bargain to maintain the status of his faction and improve his image among the people.
Besides Wen Jiabao, there are others inside the party who are more interested in political reform. Unlike what most Westerners think, they are a group of people who have handsomely profited from the current system, and they are motivated to protect their gains. At the same time, they know the Communist Party will have a hard time maintaining one-party autocracy in the times ahead. So, they advocate “peaceful evolution.” They even formed an official faction last year.
But these political reformers are not the mainstream within the party. The mainstream today consists of those officials who have not yet made enough money for themselves and thus want to keep the current political structure intact as long as possible. They are not for political reform because they suspect that if the “mob” is ever empowered, they will not forgive the party. Since international pressure on human rights in China is so weak these days, this is the absolute majority in control of decision-making in the party today.