【英语中国】中国能再次证伪质疑吗?

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2013-11-6 08:02

小艾摘要: Foreign commentators and local bloggers regularly predict that China is heading for an economic and political crisis. But the country’s leaders are in strikingly confident mood. They believe that Chi ...
Foreign commentators and local bloggers regularly predict that China is heading for an economic and political crisis. But the country’s leaders are in strikingly confident mood. They believe that China can keep growing at more than 7 per cent a year for at least another decade. That would mean the country’s economy – already the second-largest in the world – would double in size. And, depending on the assumptions you make about US growth and exchange rates, it would probably mean that China becomes the world’s largest economy by 2020.

Nobody embodies the leadership’s confidence better than the burly, imposing figure of Xi Jinping, China’s president. Last week, I was part of a group of foreign visitors – brought together by the 21st Century Council, a think-tank – who met the Chinese leader in Beijing. Mr Xi’s manner is warmer and less formal than that of Hu Jintao, his slightly robotic predecessor. Yet the staging of the meeting had faint echoes of Chinese history, in which foreign barbarians paid tribute to the leader of the Middle Kingdom.

The president sat in an armchair in a cavernous meeting room in the Great Hall of the People, with a vast mural of the Great Wall of China behind him. Arranged in a semi-circle in front of him was a group of former presidents and prime ministers from other nations, including Gordon Brown of Britain and Mario Monti from Italy. In the semi-circle behind them were some western business leaders, and a smattering of “thinkers”. President Xi started his remarks by pronouncing himself “deeply moved by the sincerity you have shown”. He then proceeded to give a confident presentation of his vision for the “great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation”.

In remarks that were widely picked up by the Chinese media, Mr Xi dismissed the idea that China risks falling into a “middle-income trap” that stalls its development and said he was confident that rapid growth could continue, without the need for further stimulus measures.

Exactly how China will sustain its growth and strengthen its global position is, however, the subject of intense discussion among the country’s leadership – as became clear in a series of other meetings arranged for our group with top military, diplomatic and economic policy makers.

Decoding these debates is not always easy, given that Chinese officialdom remains deeply attached to slogans. If the members of the 21st Century Council had been forced to drink a shot every time they heard the phrase “Chinese dream”, “peaceful development” or “harmonious world”, most of them would have been under the conference table fairly swiftly.

Nonetheless, several themes are clear. The Communist party plenum that convenes in Beijing later this week is being talked up as a turning point for economic reform. Some officials even compare it to the historic plenum in 1978, in which Deng Xiaoping launched the entire process of “reform and opening up” that has transformed China. Economic liberalisers are in a confident mood. Li Keqiang, prime minister, pledged to “deepen reform comprehensively” by promoting changes in the “fiscal, financial, pricing and enterprise fields”.

The details of these changes may emerge only in the months after the plenum. But the key target that liberalisers have in their sights is the network of mammoth state-owned enterprises (SOEs), whose role has actually expanded over the past decade. The real optimists think that the Xi-Li team may even start privatising some of the state-owned behemoths, such as China’s National Grid. Others merely hope that the power of the SOEs will be reined in – giving more room to private enterprise. Yet almost everybody acknowledges that the state-owned enterprises have huge lobbying power and will be very difficult to control.

Changes are also promised in the relationship between the central government and local administrations – although they sound contradictory. On the one hand, there is a pledge to rein in out-of-control borrowing by local governments. On the other, there are promises that provincial governments will be allowed more room to experiment.

While there is occasional talk of political reform, the phrase seems to mean a drive against corruption and a promise to make government more accountable. There is no suggestion of movement towards a western-style democracy. On the contrary, Mr Xi is clearly determined to maintain the Communist party’s central role in running China.

I left Beijing with some doubts about Mr Xi’s programme. It is hard to see how an anti-corruption drive can truly succeed without a free press, rival political parties or truly independent institutions to act as a check on party officials. And while Chinese leaders routinely stress their commitment to global peace, the fact is that tensions with Japan are rising dangerously – and any clash would be disastrous for the settled trading system on which China depends.

Finally, environmental concerns are growing. But it is far from clear that a system that is superb at producing growth is also capable of providing clean air and water.

Yet the record of the past 30 years should encourage some humility in sceptical foreigners such as myself. Predictions that the Chinese economy is about to crash – or that the political system will soon implode – have been a regular feature of outside analysis of China for 20 years and more. So far the country’s political leadership has regularly proved the sceptics wrong. Given that record, it would be a brave person who bet against the success of the Xi reform programme.

不论是外国评论员,还是中国本土博客作者,都经常预言中国将陷入经济和政治危机。中国领导人却是满怀自信。他们相信,中国当前超过7%的经济年增长率至少能够再保持十年。这就意味着中国经济规模将翻番,而目前中国已经是世界第二大经济体。也就是说,到2020年,中国有望成为世界最大经济体——这要看你怎么判断美国经济增长潜力和未来汇率情况。

没有人比身材魁梧、仪表堂堂的中国国家主席习近平更能够展现身为领导者的自信心。上周,在智库“21世纪理事会”(21st Century Council)组织安排下,习近平主席在北京接见了一群外国访问者,我也是其中一员。习近平的言谈举止要比其前任胡锦涛更温和随意,后者略显机械。然而,此次会议让人隐隐约约地联想到古时外国蛮夷向“中央王国”朝贡的情景。

在人民大会堂一间宽敞的会议室里,习近平坐在一张扶手椅里,背后是一幅巨大的长城壁画。他的面前是成半圆形排列的座位,在座的是来自多个国家的前任总统、总理或首相,包括英国前首相戈登?布朗(Gordon Brown)、意大利前总理马里奥?蒙蒂(Mario Monti)。在他们身后,同样是半圆形摆放的座椅上是一些西方商界名人和少数“思想家”。习近平主席在开场白中说“对诸位的热诚深表感动”,接着,他自信地讲述起了他对于“中华民族伟大复兴”的愿景。

中国媒体广泛报道了习近平的讲话。习近平表示,中国不会落入所谓“中等收入国家陷阱”。他说,他有信心中国经济会继续快速增长,没有必要出台进一步的刺激措施。

然而,中国领导阶层中间正在热烈讨论,中国具体将如何维持增长,并提高国际地位。在我们与中国军事、外交和经济等领域主要政策制定者的一系列其他会议中,就可以看出这是一个热点话题。

鉴于中国政界喜欢喊各种口号,解读这些争论并不总是那么容易。如果21世纪理事会的成员们每次听到“中国梦”、“和平发展”、“和谐世界”之类的字眼都不得不干一杯,那么大多数人很快就会醉倒在会议桌底下了。

尽管如此,几大主题是明确的。中共十八届三中全会本周晚些时候将在北京召开,这次会议被认为将是中国经济改革的转折点。一些官员甚至将此次会议与1978年那次历史性的全会相提并论,邓小平就是在那次会议上发起了“改革开放”的全面进程,给中国带来了翻天覆地的变化。目前经济自由主义者们充满信心。李克强总理承诺“深化全面改革”,推进“财政、金融、物价、企业”各领域的变革。

各方面改革的细节可能在全会结束几个月后才会浮出水面。但在自由主义者看来,改革主要将针对臃肿的国有企业——过去十年来,国企实际上变得更强大了。真正的乐观主义者认为,习李领导班子甚至可能会将一些大型国企私有化,比如说国家电网(National Grid)。而一些人只是希望国企的权力受到限制,从而给民企留出更大空间。然而,几乎所有人都承认,国企具有强大的游说力量,因而很难控制。

中央政府和地方政府之间的关系也有希望改革,尽管相关言论听上去很矛盾:一方面承诺控制地方政府失控的举债活动,另一方面又承诺省级政府将有更多尝试空间。

虽然偶尔会听到政治改革的说法,但这似乎是指反腐败运动,以及加强政府问责的承诺。没有人提到要推行西方式民主。正相反,习近平显然决心要维持中共的核心领导地位。

我带着对习近平改革计划的一丝疑虑离开了北京。很难想象,没有新闻自由,没有对立政治党派,也没有真正独立的机构来约束共产党官员,反腐败运动如何真正获得成功。另外,虽然中国领导人经常强调要致力于维护世界和平,但中国与日本的紧张关系已经上升到危险地步,一旦爆发冲突,可能会给中国依赖的现有贸易体系造成灾难。

最后,环境问题也愈发令人担忧。一个极端擅长推动经济增长的体制是否也能够提供清洁的空气和水,这一点还远未可知。

但过去三十年的事实应该让诸如我这样持怀疑态度的外国人稍感谦卑。二十多年来,外界屡屡预言中国经济即将崩溃、中国政治体制快要瓦解。目前为止,中国政治领导人已经不断证实怀疑论者是错误的。有鉴于此,如果谁还赌习近平改革计划不会成功还真是“勇气可嘉”。

译者/王慧玲

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