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Surge in social conflicts forcing reform on Beijing: academic

2012/04/16 19:28:07

Beijing, April 16 (CNA) A Chinese scholar said increasingly frequent and violent conflicts between the people and the bureaucracy, between workers and employers and between rich and poor are forcing the authorities to change their "reform" strategies.

China's liberalization policies launched over 30 years ago have moved beyond a "do as you go" style of reform as increasing social conflicts force the authorities to change their strategies, said sociologist Wu Zhongmin.

Social contradictions have become ever more evident and with more serious consequences, leading "individual" problems to become "aggregate social problems," said Wu, a professor at the Communist Party's Central Committee School, in an interview with the China Youth Daily.

Conflicts between the general public and officials, between workers and employers and between haves and have-nots have all become so serious that they could easily escalate into something even bigger, Wu said.

Of the three conflicts, labor-management disputes may be the most serious, he said, citing figures showing that that between 1997 and 2006, the number of government mediated disputes grew at a rate of at least 20 percent a year.

As a result, the government has changed its reform strategies on different fronts, Wu said, pointing to progress in its labor policies and the greater attention paid to narrowing the rich-poor gap than before.

Extensive and showy displays of "money power" by some wealthy citizens, which have provoked widespread criticism from netizens, have also pushed the government to improve its charity policy, Wu said.

Even netizens' dissatisfaction over government offices' spending habits have triggered reforms requiring government budgets to be used in a more "open, fair and just" way, according to the scholar.

But he still described government efforts at reform as inadequate and suggested that authorities take the initiative rather than wait to be forced into adopting new reform strategies.

The government should put in place more comprehensive reforms, including higher-level policy reforms and supportive measures for working-level officials, to meet the demands of society, he said.

Two "breakthroughs" that China can try to make in the face of the mounting challenges at home are "constantly improving people's livelihoods" and "building a sound and modern legal system," according to Wu.

These are the two best weapons for the Beijing authorities to overcome their uphill battle in promoting reform, he said.

(By Charles Kang and S.C. Chang)