China's Political Changes

I have written extensively about the Battle for China. Reformers are battling hardliners and Maoists to pull the country through the middle income trap and into a different political future. Another piece of evidence comes from the Shanghai Free Trade Zone. This initiative was launched only a month after Bo Xilai was removed from power.

Han Zheng: How Shanghai's Free Trade Zone Works
Can you tell us what was behind the decision to launch the FTZ?
Han: The deliberations took about a year. At first, the plan wasn't very big. We just wanted to explore whether Shanghai could lead the way in facilitating investment and using innovation to advance restructuring, and how Shanghai could become an international financial and trade center. The research deepened, and it was connected to some nationally strategic needs. The connections expanded, and at one point we felt that our direction was correct, our research valuable.

After the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party (in 2012) our research led to a preliminary plan, which resembles the plan we have now. There are differences between research results and a real plan, which needs direction, goals and guidelines.
At the National People's Congress in March, General Secretary Xi Jinping participated in a discussion that included delegates from Shanghai. We took the opportunity to give him a report on the plan, and he affirmed it.

Then on March 28, Premier Li Keqiang came to the Yangtze River Delta on his first field trip since taking office. After he arrived at Shanghai, he received direct reports from members of the municipal party standing committee and government. They received his affirmation. The premier said he thought the plan was in line with national strategy.
The Wenzhou financial reforms and the Shanghai FTZ kicked off at about the same time. The reformers pounced once their political enemies were weakened.

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