In contrast with the powerful, assertive and united China that is being projected to the outside world, Yu Jianrong said his prediction of looming internal disaster reflected on-the-ground surveys and also the views of Chinese government ministers.
Deepening social fractures were caused by the Communist Party’s obsession with preserving its monopoly on power through ”state violence” and ”ideology”, rather than justice, Professor Yu said.
Disaster could be averted only if ”interest groups” – which he did not identify – were capable of making a rational compromise to subordinate themselves to the constitution, he said.
Some lawyers, economists and religious and civil society leaders have expressed similar views but it is unusual for someone with Professor Yu’s official standing to make such direct and detailed criticisms of core Communist Party policies.
Professor Yu is known as an outspoken insider. As the director of social issues research at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences’ Institute of Rural Affairs he advises top leaders and conducts surveys on social unrest.
He previously has warned of the rising cost of imposing ”rigid stability” by force but has not previously been reported as speaking about such immediate dangers.
”Some in the so-called democracy movement regard Yu as an agent for the party, because he advises senior leaders on how to maintain their control,” said Feng Chongyi, associate professor in China Studies at the University of Technology, Sydney.
”I believe Yu is an independent scholar. This speech is very significant because it is the first time Yu has directly confronted the Hu-Wen leadership [President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao] and said their policies have failed and will not work.”
Pointedly, Professor Yu took aim at the policy substance behind two of Mr Hu’s trademark phrases, ”bu zheteng” [”stability”, or ”don’t rock the boat”] and ”harmonious society”.
His speech was delivered on December 26, the day after the rights activist Liu Xiaobo was sentenced to 11 years in jail for helping to draft a manifesto for constitutional and democratic government in China, called Charter ’08.