Beijing (AsiaNews) - The Study Times, a Chinese Communist Party (CCP) paper, has launched a blistering broadside at President Hu Jintao and Prime Minister Wen Jiabao, accusing them of stalling long-overdue political reform and creating a legitimacy crisis for the CCP. Although promptly removed from the Internet, the article can still be found on some blogs.
After ten years in power (2002-2012), Hu and Wen will hand over power at next months' party congress. Offering a contrasting view to the official line, which has hailed the decade-long reign of President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao as "golden and glorious", Deng Yuwen, a Study Times deputy editor, raised ten important questions that are undermining the country's further development and fanning public dissatisfaction.
Run by the party's central school, the paper's attack is probably part of the ongoing power struggle inside the party for control of the politburo before the next party congress. Still, it is astonishing that such scorching criticism should be made when the two leaders are still in office, or that many of the issues raised in the article are also those of dissidents and activists.
The problems Deng lists include stagnant economic restructuring (huge state-owned corps that stifle private initiative), pollution, income disparity, the outdated family planning (by an aging population) and household registration (which denies rural people the right to settle in cities) policies, a looming energy crisis (caused by an obsolete productivist model), moral degradation (epitomised by the many cases of corruption) and the country's battered international image.
For Deng, the grave problems are rooted in one particular cause: the lack of real political reform. Although it was a tough challenge to embrace growing public demands for greater democracy and accountability, "the authorities should at least [have] offer[ed] some hope by showing their sincerity with concrete actions", Deng said.
Hu and particularly Wen often talked about democracy and the need for political reform, but they seldom explained what they actually meant or took any step in that direction.
"The biggest and the most pressing issue for the party is . . . the crisis over the legitimacy of its rule," Deng writes. This is "due to its failure to address the widening wealth gap and worsening corruption, to carry out effective social integration and to meet the public demands for greater democracy.
"The essence of democracy is how to restrict government power; that's the most important reason why China needs democracy so badly. Over-concentration of government power without checks and balances is the root cause of so many social problems."
Deng is equally critical of the outgoing leaders' economic policy after the global financial crisis, based on a four trillion yuan stimulus package, which mindlessly boosted energy-intensive and heavily polluting industries.
Their failure to cope with pollution and to respect human rights is driving people to protest and lose faith in the country's leadership, undermining social stability and Hu's 'harmonious society'.
It is unclear whether Deng's article is a warning for the whole leadership or the nail in the coffin of the Hu and Wen's years. It is clear however that it is part of a power struggle currently underway for control of the Standing Committee of the party's politburo.
The fight involves former President Jiang Zemin's Shanghai gang, liberal in economics but conservative on human rights issues; the 'princelings,' the often corrupt and smug offspring of party bosses who got rich through party connections, led by Xi Jinping who is set to replace Hu; and the Communist Youth League, a key power base for President Hut, which seeks to moralise the political leadership.
Some months ago, the princelings suffered a fatal blow when Bo Xilai was forced to resign and his wife convicted of murder.
Two days ago, Hu's faction took a hit when a Hu crony, Ling Jihua, was demoted to director of the United Front, thus losing the chance of joining the politburo's Standing Committee.
Apparently, his fall from grace was the result of an accident in which his son Ling Gu and two women were killed when he crashed his Ferrari. All three were naked or not fully clothed.
In order not to embarrass his father, Ling Gu's death certificate was changed so that another name appeared on it. Reports suggest that Jiang Zemin gave Hu the file with the real identity of the dead man.
So far, Jiang appears to be the only winner.