China Softening Up the Hard Line

Students take to the streets, and officials take to the airwaves

Beijing Mayor Chen Xitong listened, stern-faced, as a student questioner bore down on him and other local officials about the nepotism and corruption that now pervade the Chinese bureaucracy. As television viewers at home watched intently, Chen, an unpopular hard-liner, seized the microphone and answered defensively. "I'm a grade-twelve cadre with a monthly income slightly over 300 yuan (($80))," he protested. "None of my family members are high-ranking officials. My son is a junior cadre in the Beijing civil affairs bureau, and my daughter-in-law is an ordinary clerk."

That China's aloof and secretive officials would submit to such an interrogation might...

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