Over the past week several Chinese state-owned media agencies, including the People's Daily and Xinhua, have commented extensively on the need for political reform. One People's Daily article published Feb. 23, while highlighting the challenges political reform would entail, suggested that failing to enact reforms would have a far more dire consequence: a full-blown political crisis. The following day, semi-state owned Global Times ran an article entitled "Reform Is a Consensus, The Path Is In Debate," which echoed the People's Daily article and laid out a conservative discussion of political reform and China's path forward.
For the Communist Party of China (CPC), the need for political reform is not up for debate. Since 1978, the CPC has staked its legitimacy on economic growth, but this is showing signs of diminishing returns as growth slows amid the global downturn and as the inefficiencies of China's export-dependent model become more apparent. CPC leadership realizes that to stay in power, the regime will have to implement political reform to address the country's many social and economic inequities. However, top-down political reform has always been difficult to implement because it challenges the interests of people benefitting most from the current system, while bottom-up political change in China historically has taken the form of revolution. To pre-empt rapid or even violent change that would threaten the current system and the party's hold on power, CPC leadership will introduce political reform slowly and incrementally.