China Starts Reform Boosting Guangdong Party Boss Wang’s Profile

Guangdong Communist Party Secretary Wang Yang, vying for a spot on China’s top decision-making body, won approval for a program aimed at cutting red tape as part of his push to reduce central control of the economy.

Government approval won’t be needed in cases when “individuals and companies can make their own decisions” and industries can regulate themselves, the State Council said yesterday in a statement. The reforms are aimed at the economy, smaller businesses and private investment, the State Council said, without giving further detail.

“Guangdong is at the frontier of reform and opening up,” the State Council said. “Carrying out the pilot reform program in Guangdong has important significance for pushing forward the reform of the administrative system.”

Wang, a candidate for inclusion in China’s Politburo Standing Committee, has championed such reforms since he took over as Guangdong’s top official in 2007. By contrast, Bo Xilai, also seen as a candidate for the Standing Committee before his ouster in March, advocated a model with more state involvement while he governed the municipality of Chongqing.

“Without the current local government led by Wang Yang, the pilot program wouldn’t exist,” said Ding Xueliang, a social sciences professor at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. “It’s also a signal that the central government favors a more relaxed market economy compared with the Chongqing model.”

Heywood Scandal

The program comes as the Communist Party prepares for a once-a-decade leadership transition later this year. Bo was ousted amid a scandal surrounding the November killing of British businessman Neil Heywood. Bo’s wife was convicted this week of murdering Heywood and sentenced to death with a two-year reprieve.

Wang has gained a reputation as a political and economic reformer during his four years in charge of Guangdong, the province with the largest economy in China that is one of the world’s biggest manufacturing centers.

State-controlled media also praised Wang for peacefully settling a December uprising in the fishing village of Wukan that saw residents expel local party officials. The resolution became a potential model for ending such disputes in the future.

— With assistance by Yidi Zhao

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