China's Leader solidifies power -- reading Chinese tea leaves
China watch -- China is slipping back into familiar ways -- clamping down, using the old Maoist techniques of forced "self-criticisms", and other methods of general repression. While China continues to modernize and expand its economy, it is internally very wary of any political liberalization, fearing another orange revolution in its midst. This bears watching as Americans are becoming complacent about China and imagine that increased growth in the economy will bring with it inevitable liberalizations in the social sphere.
These developments show that in many ways the Chinese leadership has not come far from the old Cultural Revolution days of Mao, is still employing many of the same tactics, and that power is still decided in shady back rooms between various competing elements.
Unlike a democracy, the future is never certain - nothing is guaranteed - the freedoms that people experience today can be taken back tomorrow on the whim of a an all-powerful leader. All policy comes from the top down. What was legal yesterday - is illegal today. What was encouraged yesterday, is a crime today. The very threat of living with such uncertainty serves to keep a populace on guard and tentative. That's exactly the point. The leaders are holding the reins. The people have no say.
China's Leader, Ex-Rival at Side, Solidifies Power - New York Times:
BEIJING, Sept. 24 - Three years after becoming China's top leader, Hu Jintao has solidified his grip on power and intimidated critics inside and outside the Communist Party with the help of the man once seen as his most potent rival.
Mr. Hu, China's president and Communist Party chief, and Zeng Qinghong, vice president and the man in charge of the party's organizational affairs, have tackled the most delicate domestic and foreign policy issues as a team, governing as hard-liners with a deft political touch, former Chinese officials and scholars with leadership connections said.
[...]Their alliance has shored up the Communist Party as it faces enormous stresses, including simmering social unrest and an uphill struggle to curtail corruption. They have quieted talk of serious factional splits and paved the way for Mr. Hu to impose his orthodox, repressive stamp on Chinese politics.[emphasis added]
Mr. Hu and Mr. Zeng made back-to-back addresses at a secretive party conclave in May to promote a "smokeless war" against "liberal elements" in society that they contended were supported by the United States, said people who said they had been told about the speeches. They have also clamped down on nongovernmental organizations, tightened media controls and forced all of the 70 million Communist Party members to submit self-criticisms as an act of ritualistic submission to their authority.