Global Politics

Signals of change in China's parliament

This is the opening of China's exercise in Communist-style democracy. Almost 3,000 party-selected delegates will sit in the Great Hall of the People listening to Premier Wen Jiabao give his equivalent of the State of the Union Address. It's not the most riveting speech but there is something going on here: there's a certain tension, a sense that China can only go so far on economic reform alone, that the population expects a political say as well. Wen gave a nod to this in his speech as well, saying China will expand people's democracy, improve democratic institutions. But what does that mean? China is a long way from having direct elections and China crushes anybody it thinks is a threat to its political system. This Human Rights Watch researcher says the talk about greater democracy is still mainly just talk. Wen did say this is a long and gradual process and this China analyst says he thinks that's realistic, with action and change from the top-down, from politicians and ordinary Chinese people. There are many in China who think that change isn't happening fast enough. But there are many other Chinese who regularly complain and get away with it. in other words, Wen today sounded like he could've been a politician anywhere.

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