The next generation of leaders in Mainland China are off to a good start. This week Guangzhou Communist Party chief Hu Chunhua defused the ongoing strike at liberal newspaper Southern Weekly. In November last year I profiled Hu as one of two “next generation” leaders elevated to positions of power in the Communist Party of China (see earlier post: “Like Star Trek, China’s Communist Party Embraces The Next Generation”).
You may have read of the stand-off between government and newspaper employees. Workers have been on strike in protest of heavy-handed editing that turned a call to honour freedoms into a sing-fest of government leaders (see earlier post: “Censorship at China Newspaper Leads to Protests“).
Having been newly appointed as leader of the Communist Party in Guangdong Province, the strike at Southern Weekly happened in Hu’s turf. He is being lauded in the Mainland and Hong Kong press for his ability to resolve the strike without force or arrests. His involvement is reported to centre on laying ground rules for mediation, that included no reprisals from management or government officials.
Newspaper workers could return to work and not face prison. For many in China this is a sign of a softened stance. In the same week government officials announced an end to forced labour for minor infringements.
As an American it seems bizarre to praise a government leader for not arresting strikers or promising to end forced labour for minor infringements. But for China these are huge strides.
We can only hope that Hu Chunhua and his contemporaries keep up the pace of these changes. Increasing freedom of expression and allowing freedom of press is part and parcel of a developed economy.