Xi gave a speech at the closing meeting of the 1st session of the 12th National People's Congress (NPC). That was the first time he had told the people about his ideas of government in his capacity as president. Its theme is the achievement of the China dream.
Xi began his China dream speech by contrasting past sufferings with present blessings. However, may one say the China dream has been fulfilled when the nation has achieved much on the economic front and the people have become better off? If the rule of law is not upheld, corrupt officials ride roughshod over the people, the government is controlled by the privileged and ordinary people do not get along with dignity, may one reasonably say the China dream has come true in the country? In fact, it is doubtful that it can be fulfilled if Beijing makes no progress in upholding the rule of law, combating corruption or doing away with privileges. There are many factors inhibiting China's development, but Xi's speech is silent on any plan to eliminate them. That is hardly reassuring.
Li talked about his ideas of reform in vivid, concrete terms at the press conference that followed the close of the NPC session. For example, he said reform was in deep water and it was necessary to touch vested interests, adding, "In most cases, it is even harder now to touch vested interests than to touch people to their souls, but we must wade into it, be the water never so deep."
Li said explicit rules should prevail over implicit ones. How does he propose to prevail over implicit rules? Even if he manages to suppress them in his premiership, the possibility of them reviving after his retirement cannot be ruled out.
It is clear from Xi's China dream and Li's ideas of reform that they have lofty aspirations and are eager to achieve. However, we expect Beijing will accordingly take concrete measures designed to make sure that the aims Xi and Li intend to achieve will not change with the leadership's attention.
A plan to restructure and reorganise the agencies under the State Council went through the last NPC session. Some take the view that the plan is more than one to abolish, merge or reorganise several agencies, and the move should be regarded as the most important reform Beijing has carried out since the end of the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China. They believe it is the prelude to a new round of reforms and evidence that China's new leadership (headed by Xi and Li) is determined to realise the China dream in the spirit of reform and innovation. It remains to be seen whether it is possible to end problems affecting China's development by reforming the administrative structure. As for the reform of the political structure, even Wen Jiabao, who always bears it in mind, made no mention of it at the NPC or CPPCC* session. There is reason to believe things on the mainland are such that the utmost Beijing can do in its attempt to reform the political structure is to reform the administrative structure. Even so, we hope Xi and Li will persevere in putting systems in place and make sure that they will outlive their careers - that their successors cannot choose but follow them. Beijing should strive to savour less of rule by man, set up good systems and strictly uphold the rule of law. Only then will the China dream achieved under the Xi-Li leadership in the next decade be of greater real significance than allowing the Chinese people to hold their heads high.