Chinese leader rules out democracy

Wu Bangguo speaks to the NPC on 10 March 2011
Image caption Wu Bangguo said democracy could reverse China's recent economic gains

A senior Chinese leader says his country will not become a multi-party democracy or adopt other Western-style political reforms.

Wu Bangguo - officially number two in the leadership structure - warned that China could face civil disorder if it abandoned its current system.

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao suggested last year that China could introduce democratic reforms.

These comments from Mr Wu explicitly say otherwise.

Dire consequences

Wu Bangguo made the comments in a speech delivered to China's National People's Congress, the country's annual parliamentary session that is currently taking place in Beijing.

"We have made a solemn declaration that we will not employ a system of multiple parties holding office in rotation," said Mr Wu, chairman of the standing committee of the NPC.

There would be no separation of powers between the different branches of government and no federal system, he said.

Mr Wu made similar comments at the parliamentary session two years ago.

Speaking at this year's meeting, he said the country would continue to be led - as it has since 1949 - by the Chinese Communist Party, with the government simply carrying out its orders.

Mr Wu warned of dire consequences if the system changed.

He said if that happened the gains made by the country over the last 30 years, since it launched economic reforms, would be lost - and perhaps worse.

"It is possible that the state could sink into the abyss of internal disorder," he said in a speech on the work of the standing committee over the past year.

Such unequivocal comments, made on such a public occasion, suggest Mr Wu's words reflect the collective opinion of China's top leaders.

It is not clear all of them share Mr Wu's position, though.

China's premier, Wen Jiabao, has often spoken about possible democratic reforms, although he never fully explains what that means.

Last year in an interview with a US television network he once again touched upon this sensitive subject.

He said China needed political as well as economic reforms to ensure that state power truly belonged to the people.

But regardless of what Mr Wen believes, China continues to be a state governed by one party, which tolerates very little dissent.

Organisations and individuals outside the Communist Party that call for political reforms are quickly silenced.

Wu Bangguo's comments at the NPC make it clear that, under this current crop of leaders, there are no plans to change the country's current political system.

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