Action to determine fate of China 'reform' agenda: Analysts

Action to determine fate of China 'reform' agenda: Analysts

BEIJING - The Chinese Communist Party's latest "reform" message juggles numerous contradictions with suggestions of significant change, but meaningful action will be needed before history can judge it as transformative, analysts say.

Ending a four-day Central Committee meeting, the party released a communique via state media promising to establish a special "leadership group" on change - but while its makeup will be a key indicator of the party's direction, no details were provided.

The meeting, known as the Third Plenum, is closely watched because the party has used previous gatherings - most notably in 1978 when it embarked on fundamental economic reforms - to signal seismic changes.

Sometimes, mere semantic alterations can indicate such shifts.

As expected, the party went big on generalities, calling for "comprehensively deepening reform" and letting the market "play a decisive role in allocating resources", compared with previous terminology that often described its part as "basic".

At the same time it reiterated the "core role" of the ruling party as well as dollops of old-style Marxist jargon pushing the role of the state-owned economy.

It set a deadline of 2020, but only for the achievement of "decisive results in the reform of key areas".

"It looks like on the direction of reform maybe there is strong agreement, but how to push ahead, maybe not," Wang Qinwei, China economist at Capital Economics in London, told AFP.

Wang said the document appeared to exude "a degree of compromise" and included potential obstacles to change.

Kenneth Lieberthal, a China expert and senior fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington, noted that the communique emphasised balance. Assertions were made and then quickly cancelled out lines later.

"In that sense it's kind of like a US president's State of the Union address," he told AFP. "Every key constituency gets a sentence and the fact that they don't really add up is not important because everybody has a sentence they can point to."

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