China’s new reform plan is a beast of a document that would run to more than 46 pages if you counted each of its 21,000-plus characters as an English word. Analysts are still picking through it, and probably will be for weeks and months to come. In the meantime, one quick and dirty way to get a sense of the Communist Party’s priorities is to look at which keywords popped up most often in the blueprint.
It will come as little surprise, given the nature of the document, that reform (改革) tops the list with 144 mentions. Given the party’s preference for economic over political reform, it’s also not a shock that economy (经济), with 77 mentions, comes in ahead of politics (政治), which appeared a modest 18 times.
Dig down deeper, however, and the messages get a bit more mixed.
Is the party committed to loosening the state’s hold on the economy? A strong emphasis on the market (市场, 84 mentions) would suggest so. And yet the “private” in private enterprise (私营, one mention) gets short shrift compared with “state-owned” (国有, 39 mentions). In similar fashion, China’s new leaders would seem to be moving away from the previous leadership’s obsession with stability (稳定), which appears a mere 10 times, but they have a lot to say about security (安全, 35 mentions), which it could be argued is just stability by another name.
And despite Beijing’s insistence that China is a country ruled by law, the paucity of relevant legal reform vocabulary implies the country’s leaders are more concerned with other topics. Law (法律) and rule of law (法治) get a modest 18 shout-outs each, while the constitution (宪法) and human rights (人权) get seven and four mentions, respectively.
Context matters, of course. In a few instances, for example, the blueprint talks about limiting the grip of state-owned enterprises in certain sectors. Still, the overall numbers at least offer a rough picture of what the party is willing to discuss.
Significantly, the most beloved keyword of political reform advocates, constitutionalism (宪政), appears not at all.
Here’s a broader breakdown:
- Reform/改革: 144
- Market/市场: 84
- Economy/经济: 77
- Party/党: 75
- The people/人民: 42
- State-owned/国有: 39
- Socialism/社会主义: 36
- Safety/安全: 35
- Supervise/监督: 32
- Investment/投资: 31
- Administer/治理: 24
- Environment/环境: 24
- Finance/金融: 18
- Law/法律: 18
- Rule of law/法治: 18
- Property rights/产权: 15
- Chinese characteristics/中国特色: 14
- Stability/稳定: 10
- Pollution/污染: 8
- Constitution/宪法: 7
- Courts/法院: 5
- Human rights/人权: 4
- China Dream/中国梦: 2
- Bank/银行: 1
- Privately run/私营: 1
- China’s Bold Reform Plans Don’t Mean Much Yet – Bloomberg (bloomberg.com)
- China’s Reform Blueprint Broken Down by Keyword (blogs.wsj.com)
- China’s Bold, Contradictory Reform – Bloomberg (bloomberg.com)
- China’s Xi Jinping outlines significant reform pledges (chinadailymail.com)
- China – Post-plenum blues? (chinadailymail.com)
- China’s Leaders Miss Chance to Make Economic History (world.time.com)
- China to Move Slowly on One-Child Law Reform (online.wsj.com)