A China experts panel kicked off the 2012 AAJA-JMSC Media Conference, looking ahead at the upcoming leadership in Beijing, and human rights and economic issues in the Middle Kingdom.
Phil Pan, assistant foreign editor at The New York Times, Stephen Schwartz, chief Asia economist of BBVA Research, and Joshua Rosenzweig, a China human rights expert, shared their insight on the mainland’s future amidst a flurry of big news including Bo Xilai’s downfall, the fate of blind dissident Chen Guangcheng, data recently released that point to a potential economic downturn and an impending leadership change.
Maintaining social stability, the future of China’s political model and the relationship between successful economic growth and its effect on legitimizing China’s party leadership are top concerns of the Chinese government, the panelists said.
“Economic liberation has created more spaces and freedom to the people. So there are concerns [to the government] that the society has become less controllable,” said Rosenzweig.
Pan, a long-time journalist in China, and former Beijing bureau chief for The Washington Post who covered China’s last leadership change in 2002, said: “The leadership transition is probably one of the most significant.” Pan pointed out that authoritarian systems could seem very stable, but leadership transitions can be difficult. That may be the case as cities and towns on the mainland are seeing a growing number of social disruptions.
“The bigger question is about the future of the China model that allows the economy to be free and maintain the rigid political system at the same time. It is seen that there is growing debate of how this model should be kept and modified within the Chinese government,” Pan said.
The panel also discussed the implications of the recent closure of Al Jazeera Beijing Bureau after the Chinese government rejected the renewal of journalist Melissa Chan’s visa.