|John Kirton (File photo)|
The third plenum of the 18th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China in November was an unusually significant event. It was the much anticipated and much desired first chance for China’s new president, Xi Jinping, to set bold new directions for his country and put his personal stamp on them. His formidable challenge was to define a new direction to meet the needs of a rapidly changing China in a transforming twenty-first century world, to do so in a way that he could deliver through more efficient control of his multifaceted state, and that could show results with a speed and sensitivity that his newly empowered, demanding citizens would approve. Chinese citizens confronted a cumulating list of problems, led by their need for a better natural environment with clean air and water and less pollution, safer food, better health care and protection from infectious disease, more high-quality education, employment, economic equality, less corruption, greater personal freedom and a reliable rule of law. Their government’s effective response to these needs was critical for a continuation of the strong, sustained, growth that China had so impressively produced in past decades, and even for the social stability of China itself.
On the whole these challenges were met in convincing fashion. Never before had a new Chinese leader acted so quickly and decisively after taking office to set such an ambitious new course with his personal approach and reputation as an integral part. The long, detailed document released on November 15, 2013, and the accompanying speech of President Xi promised bold, broad, far-reaching reforms likely to transform the Chinese economy and society as a whole. These consist of several key changes in the economic, social and personal spheres, and in the process by which those changes would reliably be put into effect to deliver the intended results. Their strength and sophistication suggests that they will have the sustained momentum to overcome the many obstacles such extensive reform will inevitably confront. They should thus produce the strong, sustained and now more balanced, higher quality economic growth that China needs to shape its changing economy and society at home. And they will strengthen China’s already central contribution to global growth and global economic governance, led by the G20, at a critical time when the world needs the Chinese economic engine more than ever and as Chinese seeks to host the G20 summit in 2016.