Jamil Anderlini: It is Time to Act on Mao's Call for Democracy





Jamil Anderlini is deputy Beijing bureau chief for the Financial Times and has been a correspondent covering China since 2003.

Last Friday, the Communist party of Chinacelebrated its 90th birthday with an enormous propaganda campaign and a wave of revolutionary nostalgia. “Without the Communist party, there would be no new China,” proclaimed billboards across the country as the party hammered home the message that only it was capable of enriching and strengthening the nation. But at 90, the party is at a crossroads. There is a sense of impending crisis even within the ranks of the elite, who supposedly benefit most from the current political arrangement.

In their book, Red Capitalism, long-time China-watchers Carl Walter and Fraser Howiedescribe China as a “family-run business” in which most major decisions are made by “a carefully balanced social mechanism built around the particular interests of the revolutionary families who constitute the political elite”.

Indeed, members of the political class in Beijing talk casually of the “100 families” that control the country’s politics, military and the commanding heights of the economy. Even so, there are growing signs the party is starting to cannibaliseitself as rampant corruption and infighting among these powerful families intensify in the lead-up to a leadership transition next year.

In a private conversation, the scion of one of these families lamented the current state of political affairs and the lack of brave policy initiatives. “When the eunuchs are running the country then the dynasty is nearing its end,” this person said.

This comment is especially apposite because of another anniversary that falls this year and is probably far more significant in the grand sweep of Chinese history. In October, China will quietly mark the centenary of the “XinhaiRevolution”, which toppled the last emperor of China and ended two millennia of dynastic imperial rule...



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