CHINA COLUMN: Front Page Treatment For Uncle Wen

        On February 5, 2012, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao visited Guangdong, a southern province in China, and pledged to push for suffrage rights for farmers. The China Daily reports this on the front page of the online English site, making it very obvious for readers to see.

        Knowing Beijing’s crabby attitude about democratic rights, at least by the western definition, it may seem shocking to see such transparent display of what could be interpreted as a pro-democratic sentiment. In fact, the title of the article suggests nothing but political change: “Wen Stresses Reform, Rural Democracy.”

        In the trumpeted article, Wen states that “at a time of global uncertainties, furthering reform is still the only key to solving all problems.” Wen claims he aims to open up dialogue to face challenges and difficulties of governing a nation of 1.3 billion people. More specifically, Wen is calling for the protection of farmers’ rights to vote.

For villages like the one in Guangdong, there must be direct elections to seek out the right leaders. Wen says that such reform can improve the rural community’s administration because the community would then be self-governed. So instead of the central government hovering over the decisions of the village like some monster nanny state, local villagers can make decisions for themselves. Wen asserts that to guarantee a working democracy, the election procedures are to be “open, fair and transparent.”

As the number-two man of China, Wen Jiabao and his statements seem surprisingly pro-democratic. Does China’s historically stern stance on its central-planning governing style still stand?  Presumably – but how can this really be the case if the government’s top media outlet plasters this article on its front page?

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