Until last week Chinas incoming leader Xi Jinping
hadnt revealed much about his policies or what he stood
for. But Xi, who was selected by Chinas Communist Party
as general secretary in November and is set to succeed
President Hu Jintao in March, made his priorities abundantly
clear when he spoke in public for the first time during his
inaugural trip as head of the ruling party. His speeches before
local leaders in Shenzhen, Chinas first special economic
zone, took place during his first stop on a five-day visit to
four cities in Guangdong province that ended on Saturday. The
visit retraced former paramount leader Deng Xiaopings
trip to the South in 1992, which Deng used as a
political pulpit from which to accelerate market reforms that
led to 20 years of double-digit growth.
There will be no stop in reform, no stop in opening
up, Chinas official Xinhua News Agency quoted Xi as
saying in his many speeches to local leaders. Xinhua says Xi
had reiterated during the trip that reform and opening up
was a great awakening in the partys history.
Xis trip comes amidst deep concerns among the public that
powerful and entrenched vested interests
particularly state-owned conglomerates and self-enriching
bureaucrats had highjacked Chinas economic
Though state-owned firms contribute to just 35 percent of
Chinas economy, they control nearly 80 percent of the
financial resources, says Jing Ulrich, chairman of global
markets, China, at J.P. Morgan.
Economic reforms, particularly of financial markets, stalled
under the previous leadership. Though bureaucrats have launched
a raft of new efforts in recent months, investors fear that the
momentum will stall again.
The latest attempts at reform, including interest rate
liberalization, increased lending to private enterprises and
more market access for foreign investors, seek to direct more
financial resources to the private sector.
Upon his election on November 14 in Beijing, the 18th Party
Congress issued a declaration that there will be a new
order of mobilization for deepening reforms and opening
up. Xi said during his visit to Shenzhen last week that he
chose Guangdong, which abuts the former British colony Hong
Kong, because he wanted to conduct an onsite
retrospection of the history of reform and opening up and
declare the resolve to press ahead with that policy.
Xis inaugural trip as leader contrasts with that of his
predecessor. Upon becoming general secretary in 2002, Hu Jintao
visited Xi Bai Po, a village in Hebei province that was the
former headquarters of the Peoples Liberation Army. In
1948, Chairman Mao Zedong made a famous speech there, rallying
the troops before their ultimate victory over the
pro-capitalist ruling Kuomintang in 1949.