Ahead of the ruling Communist Party of China's key Congress to elect a new leadership, calls for political reforms in China's one-party system are getting louder, with a top official saying the CPC can no longer "dodge" the issue citing obstacles.
"We ought to have a sober recognition that we still face many problems in political reforms. You can't dodge the obstacles, but must push forward," Chen Baosheng, vice president of Party School, said during an online discussion on a state-run portal.
'So I hope the 18th National Congress (of the Communist Party of China) can make some new arrangements in this regard," said Chen, who worked under Vice President Xi Jinping, the head of the Party School which formulated the ideological course of the CPC. Xi is also tipped to succeed President Hu Jintao.
Significantly, Chen's comments were highlighted on the front page of the state-run Global Times, increasing the tempo of hitherto dormant debate about democracy and political reforms often spoken about by outgoing Prime Minister Wen Jiabao, who could, however, never get them implemented.
The Global Times said Chen's remarks have drawn great attention from both mainstream and social media.
Major news portals in China placed his comments among their top news, which also became one of the most reposted topics on 'Weibo', it said.
With two weeks to go for the opening of the party Congress on November 8, political reforms have become one of the most-anticipated topics for the event, the tabloid said.
The Congress, for which 2,270 delegates have been chosen, will also appoint a new set of leaders replacing Hu, Wen and other top officials who would retire at the end of this year.
It will set an ideological course for the party to be followed in the year of economic downturn due to declining exports and mounting pressure on the otherwise affluent Chinese economy, the growing wealth gap.
Analysts say it should be seen whether the high projections being given for political reforms by the official media is a mere publicity posture to project a sense of plurality in the confines of one-party state or is there pressure brewing within the party to work out democratic reforms to match economic reforms.
The website of the People's Daily, a flagship paper of the party, this month carried an opinion piece saying the ruling party does not fear that political reform will threaten its reign, suggesting that the delay in the long-anticipated move is a result of no clear political path being in sight.
Huang Weiping, director of the Contemporary Chinese Politics Research Institute at Shenzhen University said that the public's expectation for reforms resulted from their discontent over various problems such as corruption.
Wang Yukai, a professor at the Chinese Academy of Governance, said the reforms are badly needed, noting that the slow pace of political reforms is to blame for growing social disputes and abuse of public power.
For the future direction of political reforms, Chen said he hopes to see the promotion of intra-Party democracy and reform in the CPC leadership system.
Global Times said the party's interpretation of political reforms is mostly focused on intra-Party democracy and the rule of law, in contrast to the expectations of a multi-party system and general elections.
The key for political reforms is to build a system of checks and balances, Huang said.
Some party official say that for the first time some of the 2,270 delegates chosen were elected instead of selection from the local units.