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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
09SHANGHAI405
2009-09-25 08:07:00
CONFIDENTIAL
Consulate Shanghai
Cable title:  

POLITICAL PESSIMISM AS 60TH ANNIVERSARY APPROACHES

Tags:   PGOV  PHUM  SOCI  CH 
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INFO  LOG-00   EEB-00   AF-00    AID-00   AIT-00   AMAD-00  CIAE-00  
      INL-00   DODE-00  DOEE-00  DS-00    FBIE-00  VCI-00   H-00     
      TEDE-00  INR-00   IO-00    LAB-01   L-00     MOFM-00  MOF-00   
      M-00     VCIE-00  NRRC-00  NSAE-00  ISN-00   OIC-00   NIMA-00  
      PA-00    PM-00    PRS-00   P-00     ISNE-00  FMPC-00  SP-00    
      IRM-00   STR-00   TRSE-00  R-00     SCRS-00  PMB-00   DSCC-00  
      PRM-00   DRL-00   G-00     NFAT-00  SAS-00   FA-00    SWCI-00  
      PESU-00  SANA-00  

 
R 250807Z SEP 09
FM AMCONSUL SHANGHAI
TO SECSTATE WASHDC 8299
INFO AMEMBASSY BEIJING 
AMCONSUL CHENGDU 
USMISSION GENEVA 
AMCONSUL GUANGZHOU 
AMCONSUL HONG KONG 
NSC WASHINGTON DC
AMEMBASSY SEOUL 
AMCONSUL SHENYANG 
AIT TAIPEI 2015
AMEMBASSY TOKYO 
USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 
AMCONSUL SHANGHAI
						C O N F I D E N T I A L SHANGHAI 000405 


DEPT ALSO FOR EAP/CM, DRL
NSC FOR BUSBY

E.O. 12958: DECL: 9/25/2034
TAGS: PGOV PHUM SOCI CH
SUBJECT: POLITICAL PESSIMISM AS 60TH ANNIVERSARY APPROACHES

REF: A. (A) BEIJING 2731

B. (B) BEIJING 633

C. (C) 08 SHANGHAI 523

D. (D) SHANGHAI 168


CLASSIFIED BY: BEATRICE CAMP, CONSUL GENERAL, U.S. CONSULATE
SHANGHAI, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE.
REASON: 1.4 (b), (d)


SUMMARY
-------



1. (C) The recent plenary session of the Communist Party Central
Committee and the upcoming 60th anniversary of the establishment
of the PRC are mechanisms to protect the Party's legitimacy and
reassert its supremacy over other political institutions,
according to Shanghai contacts. Efforts to curb corruption are
ineffective, they said. The contacts uniformly held negative
views of Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping's leadership
abilities. Shanghai's prospects for further political reform
are dim because of the municipality's importance -- primarily
fiscal -- to the Central Government. End Summary.

OCTOBER 1 NOT A CAUSE TO CELEBRATE


--------------------------





2. (C) During a September 24 discussion with the Consul General,
Shanghai contacts expressed pessimistic views about political
reform on the eve of the 60th anniversary of the establishment
of the People's Republic of China. The October 1 National Day
holiday, coming on the heels of the Fourth Plenum of the 17th
Communist Party Central Committee that concluded September 18
(Ref A), is not a cause for celebration among proponents of
reform, they said. Tongji University professor Zhu Dake,
Shanghai Institute of American Studies President Ding Xinghao,
Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences (SASS) World Economy
Institute Deputy Director Xu Mingqi, and Shanghai University
Institute of Peace Studies Director Zhu Xueqin said they are
concerned about the Party's agenda, which appears to seek only
to protect its own "legitimacy."



3. (C) Political reform advocate Zhang Renren of the Mulvanny
Group separately told PolOff September 23 the Plenum was a "big
disappointment" and the "over-the-top" nature of the October 1
events in Beijing -- including the strict security measures in
the capital -- demonstrate the Chinese leadership's "lack of
confidence." Recent events in Xinjiang have "shaken the Party's
confidence," Zhang added. Zhu Dake told the Consul General the
October 1 security measures are "unbelievable," referring in
particular to the temporary closure of Beijing Capital
International Airport on the morning of October 1 and the
restriction on selling knives following reported attacks last
week near Tiananmen Square. Observed Shanghai University
professor Zhu Xueqin: "even after September 11, the United
States did not take such drastic measures."



4. (C) Shi Feike, a Shanghai-based journalist at Southern
Metropolitan Weekly (Nandu Zhouli), agreed "not much came out of
the Plenum," telling PolOff on September 21 that as the 60th
anniversary of the PRC approaches, there still are too many
"vested interests" to make any real progress on political

reform. According to Shi, recent "promises on cadre evaluation
reform" lack substance, and "party building" (dangjian) efforts
are worthless if the Party's only goal is to "remain in control
for the foreseeable future." Renewed attention to the roles of
the National People's Congress (NPC) and Chinese People's
Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) may give some people
optimism, but the Party will not allow these institutions to
grow stronger, he said.

MEMO TO NPC AND CPPCC -- REMEMBER WHO YOU WORK FOR


--------------------------



--------------------------





5. (C) Consulate contacts said any hopes the NPC and CPPCC might
play a greater role in the Central Government were dashed by two
major policy speeches this year. SASS scholar Xu Mingqi said a
speech by NPC Chairman Wu Bangguo on March 9 was a "clear
indicator" that the Communist Party "has no interest in genuine
democracy," as Wu's speech emphasized the NPC serves the Party.
Wu stressed the differences between China's NPC system and
foreign legislatures, declaring that China would not
"mechanically adopt" Western models (Ref B). Zhu Xueqin said
the March speech was a direct response to Charter 08
signatories, who had called for greater political freedom in
their December 2008 manifesto (Ref C). Ding Xinghao, a
well-respected academic who has been focusing on U.S.-China
relations since China's reform and opening period, characterized
the speech as "unfortunate," further lamenting that Wu, an
"honest man" was the leader the CCP directed to "deliver the
message." There cannot be democracy if it "must be led by the
CCP," said Xu Mingqi.



6. (C) Likewise, Chinese President Hu Jintao's speech on
September 20 to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the CPPCC
delivered a strong message of the CPPCC's subservience to the
Party. According to Zhu Xueqin, CPPCC members have been trying
to be "more relevant" in recent months, but Hu's speech aimed to
"put the organization in its place" as merely an institution to
support the work of the CCP. Most Chinese citizens already
believe the CPPCC is largely irrelevant in China's political
system. There are efforts to highlight the contributions of
other political parties, said Shi Feike, noting the non-CCP
affiliation of Science and Technology Minister Wan Gang, the
Chairman of the Zhigong Party. However, these "token"
appointments have little influence in the political system, he
said.

"FOUNDATION OF A REPUBLIC" (OR "SEEING OLD MEN")?


--------------------------



--------------------------





7. (C) The CPPCC played a central role in the nationalistic
film, "Foundation of a Republic" (Jianguo Daye), which was
released nationally on September 17 prior to the October 1
anniversary; Shanghai contacts said the Communist Party's
cooperation with other parties, including the Democratic League
and KMT, in the founding of the "New China" in 1949 was used to
underscore the "legitimacy" of the regime. The movie is an
interesting blend of history and entertainment, said Tongji
University's Zhu Dake, but with so many movie stars in the film,
the focus is more on the entertainment side. Netizens have paid
considerable attention to the movie, said Shanghai University's
Zhu Xueqin, but many of their viewpoints are cynical. One joke
in circulation puns on the film's Chinese title, "Jianguo Daye,"
to make it mean "Saw All the Old Men."

WHAT TO DO ABOUT CORRUPTION?


--------------------------





8. (C) One scene in the movie does have relevance for modern
China, our contacts agreed. The significance of a discussion on
corruption between Chiang Kai-shek and his son, Chiang
Ching-kuo, was not lost on Shanghai's young moviegoers, they
said. At the end of the conversation, Chiang Kai-shek says, "to
take measures to counter corruption could hurt the Party (KMT),
but avoiding anti-corruption measures could destroy the
country." Zhu Dake told the Consul General his students clearly
understood this commentary both as a statement about the rampant
corruption of the KMT, as well as a reflection of the CCP's
current situation.



9. (C) The difficulty is that the Party's tools to combat
corruption remain limited because the problem is so endemic.
Zhang Renren said he is skeptical of the government's
anti-corruption efforts because local government corruption
already is "completely out of control." Recommendations
reportedly discussed during the Plenum to require local cadres
to publicly announce the scope of their personal investments
would be impossible, said journalist Shi Feike. "There will
always be ways to hide assets," he said, adding that previous
local government efforts to require public information on cadre
assets in Hunan, Jiangsu, and Xinjiang all were stymied by
"vested interests."



10. (C) For now, therefore, Shanghai scholars said, there will
be only local battles over corruption. The downfall of local
officials in recent years -- including Shanghai's own Party
Secretary Chen Liangyu in 2006 -- demonstrates that being an
official has become a "high risk, high reward" proposition, Zhu
Xueqin said. He expressed sympathy for officials, who must live
with a constant feeling of insecurity. According to Xu Mingqi,
corruption allegations continue to be used as tools to sack
local officials, and the internet remains a means to expose
cadres' transgressions (Ref D).

WILL XI OR WON'T XI?


--------------------------





11. (C) Shanghai contacts all said former Shanghai Municipal and
Zhejiang Provincial Party Secretary Xi Jinping's failure to rise
to the Vice Chairmanship of the Central Military Commission
(CMC) during the recent Plenum was not significant, but several
contacts expressed concern about Xi's leadership abilities and
the prospects for needed political reforms if Xi does in fact
succeed Hu Jintao. Ding Xinghao lamented that Xi's only
accomplishments in Zhejiang and Shanghai were the result of
"doing nothing." Xi was cautious and simply tried "not to mess
things up," Ding said. In Zhejiang particularly, residents
scornfully noted that the province's rapid economic development
during the period was in spite of, rather than because of, the
Provincial Party Committee's leadership, Ding added. Zhu Xueqin
said there is no chance Xi will be able (or willing) to promote
needed political reforms if he ultimately is tapped to lead the
Party. According to Xu Mingqi, the "situation is serious,"
because the stakes for Hu's successor -- whether Xi or not --
will be huge in the next 10-15 years when the Central Government
will have to solve many social problems.



12. (C) Shi Feike still believes Xi will be Hu's successor, but
supported the scholars' views, saying that "Xi is the guy
because he's very cautious and sits in the back of the room with
his arms folded -- he doesn't make mistakes." The most worrying
aspect, according to Shi, is that "Xi's people" (advisors) are
weak. Xi's primary assistant (mishu), for example, has been
with him since before he was Party Secretary in Zhejiang, and
the assistant is "just a yes man." No one is giving good advice
to Xi on what he should or should not say or do, and that's
alarming, Shi said. China needs leaders like Abraham Lincoln,
Shi said, who have "moral courage" and "historic responsibility"
(lishi zerengan). Or, as Ding Xinghao stated, China needs
another leader like Deng Xiaoping with the personal authority to
force change. Sensing Xi's weaknesses, other Party leaders are
beginning to earnestly jockey for position, said Zhang Renren,
citing Chongqing Party Secretary Bo Xilai and Guangdong Party
Secretary Wang Yang in particular as leaders who have been
"active."

SHANGHAI'S POLITICAL FATE TIED TO NATIONAL ECONOMY


--------------------------



--------------------------





13. (C) Our contacts said they are not optimistic about
political reform in Shanghai in the near-term, primarily because
the Central Government aims to keep Shanghai under tight
control. Even as economic development flourishes in Shanghai,
political reform lags behind Beijing and Guangzhou, said Zhu
Xueqin. Observers can see the difference in Shanghai's degree
of openness by reading the local newspapers, said Xu Mingqi.
The Central Government's Propaganda Department does not allow
Shanghai to have a more reform-minded newspaper such as
Guangzhou's Southern Weekend (Nanfang Zhoumo), Xu said. "You
would expect a developed area to be more open," he told the
Consul General, "but Shanghai is more politically restricted."



14. (C) Shanghai remains too economically important to the
Central Government to allow greater political reform, said Ding
Xinghao. Beijing needs to control Shanghai because of
Shanghai's contribution to Central Government revenue, estimated
by our contacts to be 13 percent last year. Returning to one of
the themes in "Jianguo Daye," Ding said that one of the reasons
the KMT established its capital in Nanjing was its reliance on
nearby Shanghai for funding. Shanghai may not contribute as
much of the revenue as it once did, but its current contribution
is enough to prompt Central Government concern about maintaining
stability in Shanghai. As long as there is social stability and
economic development in Shanghai, Xu said, there will be no
political change.


COMMENT


--------------------------





15. (C) Shanghai intellectuals are largely pessimistic about
political implications of the recent Plenum and the upcoming
October 1 holiday. Shanghai's own lack of progress on political
reform is particularly discouraging. In the near-term,
Shanghai's continued rapid economic growth is likely to mute
public criticism of the political situation, and the city will
continue to draw migrants not only from other parts of China but
increasingly from foreign countries as well who are attracted by
economic opportunities. In the medium- to long-term, however,
Shanghai intellectuals are worried about unresolved social
problems, especially the city's aging population and the lack of
an adequate social safety net. It is primarily with these
problems in mind that our Shanghai contacts express their
concerns about the future of political reform, which they
believe must move forward in order to give the public peaceful
outlets for discontent.


CAMP