Internet Sows Doubt Over China Reform Plan; “It’s all a bunch of clichés. Looks like this new group doesn’t have what it takes to accomplish actual, meaningful reform.”

November 12, 2013, 9:34 PM

Internet Sows Doubt Over China Reform Plan

China’s Communist Party released the report on its pivotal four-day policy planning meeting in dribs and drabs online on Tuesday evening. Primed by weeks of state media reports promising grand reforms – the party mouthpiece People’s Daily said it “will have an important and far-reaching effect in pushing ahead with socialism with Chinese characteristics” — China’s Internet users were largely underwhelmed.“It’s all a bunch of clichés,” wrote one Weibo user in the comments section on the Sina Weibo social media feed of the official Xinhua news agency. “Looks like this new group doesn’t have what it takes to accomplish actual, meaningful reform.”

Xinhua began releasing news flashes highlighting small sections of the communique around 5:30 p.m., but offered little context on what each meant. The flashes quickly appeared on Xinhua’s official Sina Weibo account and were widely retweeted and commented on by users across China.

Dissemination of official information via Weibo recalled the trial of disgraced political leader Bo Xilai earlier this fall. In an extremely rare move at the time, the court in eastern city of Jinan published transcripts of the proceedings in almost real-time.

The party’s embrace of the web as one among many media for disseminating official information reflects a bid by leaders to reconnect with the country’s youth. Many of them have grown distrustful and leery of tightly controlled traditional media such as Xinhua and China Central Television.

Though the communique emphasized economic reforms, China’s social media users — who tend to favor individual liberties over the concerns of the state — focused more on Beijing’s revelation that it planned to establish a new state security committee to “improve social governance.”

“Shut behind closed doors for four days, and they spend taxpayer’s flesh adding another goddamn agency,” wrote one angry microblogger.

A few noted that the name for the new state security committee — 国家安全委员会 in Chinese — was the same as an early Chinese translation for the Soviet Union’s KGB. Others drew connections with a certain, similarly named U.S. security agency that has made a few headlines recently, dubbing it “China’s NSA.”

The communique also raised eyebrows online with a promise to “protect and maintain the authority of laws and the constitution.” For much of the year, state media have been highly critical of calls for China to embrace constitutionalism and better protect individual freedoms enshrined in China’s constitution, portraying those notions as Western imports unsuitable for the country.

“A few more specifics would be nice,” wrote one of the more optimistic microbloggers.

Others rejected the statement as a platitude. “As long as the prosecutors and the courts are controlled by the party, everything will stay the same as it’s been,” Tian You, an author of business books, wrote on his Weibo feed.

Lawyer Zhang Zhiyong, meanwhile, lamented what he saw as an imbalance in the communique’s distribution of keywords.

“Human rights, law and the constitution all come in last,” he wrote, pointing to a calculation that showed each of those words appearing only once in the document, where “system” and “socialism” racked up 44 and 28 mentions, respectively.

To be sure, some social media users reacted positively to the document, emphasizing the need for greater national security and urging others to give the party time to implement reforms.

Still, the sense of disappointment was palpable, with many focusing less on what the communique said and more on what it didn’t.

“What about the important stuff?” asked one Weibo user on seeing the meeting summarized online. “What about elections, public asset disclosure, free health care?”

About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (, the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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