3rd plenum, a meeting of the Communist Party’s Central Committee,has been under way since November 9.
Analysts have been looking for some reforms on state-owned enterprises, though nothing as extreme as privatization, reforms to the Hukou (residency permit) system, financial sector reform, and property tax reform to name a few.
But Minxin Pei, professor of government at Claremont McKenna College, writes in a Project Syndicate column that optimism surrounding the 3rd Plenum and the party’s “ability to push through market-oriented reforms also ignores the real obstacles to future growth and prosperity.”
Pei argues that there is a huge difference between the 3rd Plenum of 1978 when Deng Xiaoping pushed through reforms and opened up China’s economy.
Some expect this to be the time for president Xi Jinping to shine, but Pei explains why this would be hard:
“Compared with the two previous breakthroughs in reforming China’s economy, in 1978 and 1992, Xi faces a different environment and a much tougher challenge. Opponents of Deng Xiaoping’s reforms were ideologically driven; they had no personal stake in the Maoist political economy. Defeating them required building a winning coalition within the party, discrediting the communist ideology, and rallying public support, all of which Deng did.
“Today, by contrast, members of the ruling elite benefit directly and immensely from the state-dominated economy. Market-oriented reform, by levelling the competitive playing field, would hurt their interests and reduce their privileges, making fierce opposition likely. Only by mobilizing pressure outside the party-state can these insiders be forced to accept some of the decentralizing and liberalizing reforms that China’s economy needs. ”
The 3rd plenum is a closed-door meeting that will wrap up on Nov 12.