SHANGHAI – I arrived here late Sunday afternoon (March 17)--the same day the annual session of the National People’s Congress concluded in Beijing. True to St. Patrick’s Day, the sky was green. Well, technically, whatever was floating in the air between the sky and my taxi was a sort of greenish haze.
In my hotel room, I turned on the TV, flipping between CNN and the 24-hour English news channel of China Central Television (CCTV), to watch an extensive press conference with China’s new premier, Li Keqiang. This was his media debut.
The 57 year-old Li, described as fluent in English, seems energetic, never fails to smile on cue, and looked at ease with the questions thrown at him during a 1.5-hour press briefing in a room packed with close to 1,000 reporters and photographers.
Later on, I learned that all the questions were vetted in advance. Of course.
Topics Li touched on during the press conference included the crackdown on government corruption, China’s plan for 7.5 percent annual average economic growth over the next few years (to double 2010 per capita GDP and personal income by 2020), and the promise of an “iron fist” against pollution.
China's new premierLi Keqiang at his media debut
Style vs. substance
My first impression is that Li’s just saying what people want to hear. Although Li may have earned style points, what he actually delivers in substance is far from clear.
My second impression is that I’m tired of the usual style vs. substance argument. In a developing nation, any sign of open-style communication emerging from the top political figure is a substantial signal.
Expressing in a public forum (i.e. press conference) what the nation’s leadership thinks is an early sign of progress toward democracy. It’s definitely a step in the right direction. So, I’m reluctant knock Li’s confident, approachable style. After all, a lot of Mikhail Gorbachev’s first moves as premier of the Soviet Union were mere “gestures.”
Li’s first measurable commitments, offered in his speech, included: smaller government (reduction in the number of people on the government payroll); no new government buildings; a freeze on overseas trips and official vehicles; and slashing the 1,700-step government-approval process by a third
The new leader, Li Keqiang, has certainly stated a worthwhile list of goals. And even if he does not succeed in getting rid of corruption and reducing pollution, if the growth goal is met there will be a nation that has a lot of folks with money to spend and the desire for a bit more personal freedom than that government could afford to give them. But I wish the people of China a period of peace and growth, so they can be our strong allies.
limiting car ownership can be done by enforcing rigid emission laws (that effectively raise the price). Then you have a double whammy. With only 1% of power being generated by nukes, that seems like another area of growth...
I would rather that the Chinese gov't be corrupt business men than power-mad, paranoid sociopaths. All things considered, the quality of Chinese governance and civil rights are pretty good by third-world standards.
David Patterson, known for his pioneering research that led to RAID, clusters and more, is part of a team at UC Berkeley that recently made its RISC-V processor architecture an open source hardware offering. We talk with Patterson and one of his colleagues behind the effort about the opportunities they see, what new kinds of designs they hope to enable and what it means for today’s commercial processor giants such as Intel, ARM and Imagination Technologies.