IN SCATHING criticism of the Communist Party's attempts to reinvent itself and win back public trust eroded by corruption and social injustice, an influential journal has said the party has not only allowed reforms to wither but "severely regress" over the past 18 years.
A cover story written by a provincial party school professor in this month's Yanhuang Chunqiu says the former Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping had intended political reforms as well as the market reforms that have transformed China into a world powerhouse.
The author, Wu Min from the Shanxi Provincial Party School, blamed the party's failure to implement greater democratisation for the unprecedented levels of official corruption, inequality and social unrest.
He warned that the "excessive concentration of power" in the party and its failure to separate itself from government could spell its downfall, citing the example of the Russian Communist Party and the KMT (China's former nationalist government ousted by the Communist Party in 1949).
"The infinite postponing of Deng's political-reform blueprint has resulted in grave consequences," the article
said. "Checks and balances of power are alarmingly lacking … the status quo should not be continued any more."
Professor Wu argues that reforms had stalled since "the 1989 political turmoil", referring to the crushing of the Tiananmen Square democracy protests, also ordered by Deng.
Li Fan, the director of The World and China Institute, said that with the Communist Party preparing for the 17th Party Congress to be held later this year, it was not unusual to see a liberalisation of debate in the lead-up, but "everyone is very careful not to step out of the circle, especially on topics of ideology".
Party congresses, held every five years, are among the most important political events in China. The President, Hu Jintao, who is due to retire in 2012, is expected to lay the groundwork for his succession.
The Beijing-based journal is published by a former director of the central government's General Administration of Press and Publications, Du Daozheng, and includes veteran cadres on its staff. It caused a stir in February when it published an essay by an academic, Xie Tao, arguing that the only way for the party to survive was to adopt Western European-style democratic socialism.
Hu Xingdou, a professor of economics at the Beijing Institute of Technology, said the articles did not necessarily reflect the party thinking. "Yanhuang Chunqiu, supported by party veterans, is only playing a role of anger-outlet, and very few magazines are allowed to express such liberal political point of view," he said.