The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Business

November 7, 2012

Hu Jintao leaves China richer, more powerful, more unequal, under communists’ firm control

BEIJING — As Hu Jintao steps down as head of China’s Communist Party after 10 years in power, he’s hearing something unusual for a Chinese leader: sharp criticism.

In media commentaries, think-tank position papers and the less censored blogosphere, Hu’s reign is being portrayed as a missed opportunity to tackle longstanding problems grown more deep-seated, from a yawning rich-poor gulf and worsening environmental degradation to stiffly authoritarian politics. One commentary has referred to the period as a “lost decade.”

“We didn’t realize Hu would turn out to be so conservative,” said Wu Jiaxiang, a former party researcher-turned-businessman and avid blogger, summing up the disappointment of many in China’s chattering classes. He dates his own disappointment with Hu to the closing of liberal-minded websites in 2005.

Some of the criticisms are designed to influence Xi Jinping, who will begin taking over from the technocratic, ultra-reserved 69-year-old Hu at a party congress that opens Thursday.

Mainstream state media, which answer to the party and dominate what most Chinese see, read and hear, have been praising the Hu era, calling it a “Glorious Decade.”

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