The reign of Hu and Wen through the eyes of Jonathan Watts

Today, Jonathan Watts of the Guardian filed his last article from Beijing entitled, “China: Witnessing the birth of a superpower.” While I will sorely miss his reporting, his lengthy 4,000 word post neatly encapsulates the decade long rule of Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao who came to power just months before Jonathan’s arrival. It is absolutely worth reading in its entirety, but I created this handy chronological cheat sheet to the pieces linked to in it (his article cleverly clumps them by topics).











After reading his article, one gets the feeling that China’s political system is speeding toward a cliff, but nobody is really sure how far away that cliff is. This however implies that the car (or Party) is humming along without problems, and that the certain doom that lies ahead will either be a complete wreck or a near miss.

However looking at the last decade I think China’s system is a bit more like the car I had in high school. From a brief first impression, it looked pretty nice; if you drove it once or twice, you might notice a few small nicks and dings but would still find it pretty great; but once you spent a decent amount of time in it you started to wonder how the whole thing even held together. Every trip could be the last one the car took, or a new timing belt might keep things together for another 5,000 miles. It was really impossible to know.

For the past few weeks I’ve been contemplating the question “Will Xi Jinping be the last ten year leader appointed in the current fashion?” I’ve been thinking the answer is yes, but that the change may be very small. After reading Watts’ article though, I was reminded that how China looks today with all its problems, challenges and achievements, isn’t so terribly different from how it has looked in the past decade, and that perhaps all the Party needs to stay in power is a new timing belt.

2 responses to “The reign of Hu and Wen through the eyes of Jonathan Watts”

  1. Someone thinks this story is hao-tastic…

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  2. Meryl Mackay aka 马美丽 says:

    Thank you for the handy chronological cheat sheet, Tom. Plenty of good reading there. I love Jonathan Watts’ writing, especially his book “When a Billion Chinese Jump”.

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