At China party congress, allegiance trumps reform

Sun Nov 11, 2012 4:48pm EST
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By Ben Blanchard and John Ruwitch

BEIJING (Reuters) - As the senior Communist Party official in one of China's most prosperous regions, Wang Yang is often cast as an agent of change, a potential force for economic and even political reform should he gain promotion to the party's highest rung later this week.

But the chief of the southern province of Guangdong appears to be distancing himself from that role while attending the party congress that will usher in China's once-in-a-decade top leadership transition.

When Wang spoke to reporters on Friday, he stuck to a well rehearsed script that could have come from any apparatchik.

"Because China has taken the strategic choice of reform and opening up, every member of the Chinese Communist Party, including myself, is a reformist - or else there would be no today," he told reporters.

"We will follow the themes of the 18th party congress to push for reform," he said. "As for the next steps for reform, General Secretary Hu Jintao has already clearly stated those, so I won't recite the report for you."

China's twice-a-decade party conclave, at which high ranking officials make speeches and hold rare press conferences, is providing a lesson into just how tightly the senior leadership controls the message it wants both the Chinese people and the outside world to hear.

At his speech at the opening of the congress on Thursday, outgoing President Hu spoke of the need for both political and economic reform, but stressed the Communist Party must remain in charge.

Everyone else has since read from the same script, evidence, political analysts said, that the party's over-arching goal remains the same: maintaining its tight grip on power.   Continued...

China's President Hu Jintao (L) shakes hands with former President Jiang Zemin after Hu delivered a speech at the opening ceremony of the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing November 8, 2012. REUTERS/Jason Lee