Reform in China vs crisis within EPRDF By Robele Ababya

November 16th, 2012 Print Print Email Email

The 18th Congress of Communist Party of China (CPC) opened in Beijing with a keynote speech by its General Secretary (GS) Hu Jintao on 07 November 2012. The GS articulated the stunning achievement in economic growth in the last decade. He vowed continuation of the “construction of socialism with Chinese characteristics “, a phrase frequently used by Chinese officials and scholars.

The CPC is the largest communist party in the world comprising 82.6 million members ruling 1.3 billion people with iron fist. The Congress, comprising 2307 delegates ‘elected’ from within the CPC, met in the Great Hall of People where an imposing portrait of Chairman Mao was conspicuous for its big size. Following deliberations during the period 7 – 14 November 2012 the Congress passed a number of major resolutions involving amendment to the CPC Constitution and replacing most of its affluent top leadership including the GS and the Prime Minister among others.

The power transfer in the one-party system of China was in all fairness a remarkable achievement far beyond the sham transfer within the EPRDF – the diehard custodian of one of the legacies left behind by the late tyrant Zenawi whose party had signed a treaty of friendship with the CPC.

The GS extolled the Scientific Outlook on Development Guidance, based on Marxism-Leninism, Mao Zedong Thought, Deng Xiaoping Theory, is the best achievement of the CPC in the past decade and told leading delegates that the Party must adhere for a long time for it shall be enshrined in the CPC Constitution as part and parcel of the new model for China’s all-inclusive development plan for the next decade.

By the way Prime Minister Deng Xiaoping Theory saved China from catastrophe due to the reckless experiment set into motion by Chairman Mao’s Cultural Revolution. And it is true that his Theory “over the past ten years, has enabled China to advance to the world’s second-largest economy from the sixth place in the world.”

The GS in his speech to leading officials underlined the unprecedented stride in economic growth achieved in the last decade but asking them “to exercise strict self-discipline and strengthen supervision over their families and staff.” He said “Leading officials at all levels, especially high-ranking officials, must readily observe the code of conduct on clean governance and report all important matters” adding that “If we fail to handle this issue well, it could prove fatal to the Party, and even cause the collapse of the Party and the fall of the state”. He made a passionate plea that “the CPC must make unremitting efforts to combat corruption, promote integrity and stay vigilant against degeneration.” He singled out corruption as a major problem in his closing speech also. And the incoming General Secretary Xi Japing strongly underscored the same thing in condemning the rampant corruption.

On the other hand Ethiopia’s PM aggrandized the economic growth of China justifying why it is adopted as a role model for growth by developing nations. He said Ethiopia scored double digit growth in the past nine years ignoring the fact that the IMF and the WB have revised that growth downwards to single digit. He was dead silent on rotten corruption which, by the way, his predecessor did not deny.

I watched on the China Central TV (CCTV) renowned pundits including Western economists arguing and reaching consensus that the average economic growth for China for the period 2010 – 2020 would be 5% to 6%. The pundits noted that the double-digit massive growth in the last three decades brought corresponding mind boggling social problems with it – such as income disparity, social unrest, and rampant corruption. It was argued that the CPC cannot rectify its blunders by itself without check-and-balance in the political system. I thought the several dialogues hosted by CCTV during the proceedings of the CPC Congress are a sure sign of China opening up to the world.

Therefore, the introduction of political pluralism in China is a must in the face of changing economic orientation from dependence on exports to domestic consumption coupled with 6 million degree holding graduates annually flooding the job market seeking employment that the CPC cannot provide without the support of private business enterprises. Add to this the 500 million informed and angry Chinese having access to the internet using the social media to expose rampant corruption and calling for multi-party democracy to change the present ‘vertical democracy’ method of CPC of replacing the affluent top plutocracy in the CPC.

The GS in all fairness deserves high respect for his courage and frankness for so clearly and unequivocally articulating the pervasive corruption within the CPC threatening to bring it down.

I cannot say the same for the EPRDF Prime Minister (PM) who had opted to copycat the Chinese aging model as a role model for Ethiopia and the developing nations. I would quickly add that it is perfectly normal to adapt models of other countries, but only to the extent that they are suitable to one’s strategic objectives and national characteristics. Emulating best practices is laudable.

My argument is that the PM should rather pay serious attention to multiple problems associated with the ongoing political and social crisis on the watch of his Stalinist party, which itself is incurably divided. A splinter group of TPLF has gone underground with determination to lead the government from behind; a second splinter group spearheaded by the senile Sebhat Nega is concocting to resurface the glory days of the all-pervasive TPLF supremacy; the widow of Zenawi controls all the resources of the TPLF in her capacity as the CEO of EFFORT that she grabbed from Sebhat; it is an open secret that the OPDO top brass, purportedly struggling for the right of the their ethnic group, are angry at being denied not even one key ministerial post, which is humiliating to the great Oromo people – the largest ethnic group in Ethiopia. So the PM has a lot to worry about and no wonder that the formation of his Cabinet is inordinately late and the government is in limbo.


The first time I met Chinese citizens physically in Ethiopia was well before the 1974 Ethiopia Revolution at Massawa on their commercial ship docked at the port of Massawa waiting for thousands of quintals of cargo of sesame from the renowned fertile land called Setite Humera – then part of Gonder/Begemder now merged with Tigray by force as part of the secret scheme of Zenawi to create an independent “Greater Tigray” by grabbing land for the surrounding areas including Wollo.

I am mentioning the above meeting with the Chinese for the following reasons:-

• The Chinese I had met then were reclusive and incommunicative reflecting rigid discipline under the iron rule of Chairman Mao. I and my colleagues were invited to the cabin and made to wait for the party representative for a few minutes silently. There was an eerie quite as the party official joined us. He said welcome and we exchanged salutations. We were treated to a bottle of Chinese beer. He told us why his cargo ship came. He was the only one who spoke. I am saying this to admire the progress the Chinese have made through the years in engaging foreigners including Chinese in discussions and social interactions in my capacity as project manager of major engineering projects at home and abroad in the past 32 years. China opening up to the world is the name of the game now!
• To underline the fact that Ethiopia at that time owned a vibrant Navy established by Emperor Haile Selassie and a harbor and in all fairness expanded and developed to an enviable high standard during His regime and that of the Derg.
• To bring out the fact that Setite Humera was a shining symbol of burgeoning agriculture in Ethiopia producing exportable cash crops on high demand from countries in Europe, America and as far places as China in Asia.
• To remind readers that one of the pernicious legacies of the late Zenawi was to give away the above mentioned vital national assets – the Navy, the harbor, burgeoning agriculture Ethiopia entrepreneurship in the spirit of self-reliance.

The Big question!

Indeed China has become the second global economic powerhouse involving 80% private sector partnership. It is a force in our global village to reckon with in terms of its military might, achievements in advanced science and technology to the extent of sending manned satellite into space – but all this at the expense of engendering draconian social problems including rampant corruption, environmental degradation, and suppressing human rights. President Hu Jintao candidly admitted that rampant corruption threatens to bring down the CPC and the government. Putting people first was underlined by the President as one of top priority tasks for the new leadership.

My big question is, given the worsening injustice and social problems in Ethiopia, why Prime Minister Hailemariam is upbeat about developing nations adopting the Chinese model for economic growth under review for change by the CPC as a priority. Shouldn’t the EPRDF learn from mistakes made by China in the past and design a model for growth that includes democracy and respect for fundamental human rights recognizing it as the foremost priority for the 21st century?


President Hu Jintao’s candid admission that economic growth brought with it rampant corruption and a host of other problems threatening to bring down the CPC and the government is laudably respectable. The CPC in my strong opinion cannot correct its failings in this regard without at least one independent watchdog political rival, less so in view of rising demands for social justice and more freedom of expression. Therefore, in view of rapid progress made to date, one would be inclined to predict that there will be a multi-party political dispensation in China in next 10 years.

The EPRDF PM is well advised to heed President HU Jintao’s speech and design a growth model with Ethiopian characteristics – with due reverence to the 96% of the population believing in God and taking into account the rights of the rest of the 4% minorities including atheists. Government interference with religious affairs has to stop; EPRDF must respect its own constitution to avoid the impending instability in the region due to inordinate crackdown on religion, especially on the Ethiopia ancient Orthodox Tewahido Christian and Muslim faiths.

The PM will have to bring to justice all the corrupt greedy top TPLF leaders including Azeb Mesfin;
dismiss all incompetent ones within the entire EPRDF top leaders and make history by establishing his
Cabinet dedicated to real change to democratic order, principles and rule of law.

Change is inevitable; the rest of us must expedite it knowing that Ethiopia’s strategic location and the
State-sponsored internal division of her people along ethnic and religious lines is making her more
vulnerable to the danger of fragmentation.

The name of the game in the 21st century politics is “people come first” or “putting human rights first”
for sustainable economic development in a truly democratic society.

Finally, I repeat my call that all political prisoners Andualem, Eskinder, Reeyot et al must be released unconditionally without delay; that all restrictions on freedom of expression are lifted; political parties including MEDREK, AEUP, et al are regarded as partners rather than enemies publicly declared as such by the late tyrant Zenawi.


  1. eti
    | #1

    “To remind readers that one of the pernicious legacies of the late Zenawi was to give away the above mentioned vital national assets – the Navy, the harbor, burgeoning agriculture Ethiopia entrepreneurship in the spirit of self-reliance.”

    Please remind readers also that Haile selasse,cancel the federation and is responsible of 30 years of war and destructions.

    Thanks to Meles,this is over. All the nostalgic should forget ERTRA.It is an idependant country.

    | #2

    “The GS extolled the Scientific Outlook on Development Guidance, based on Marxism-Leninism, Mao Zedong Thought, Deng Xiaoping Theory, is the best achievement of the CPC in the past decade and told leading delegates that the Party must adhere for a long time for it shall be enshrined in the CPC Constitution as part and parcel of the new model for China’s all-inclusive development plan for the next decade.”

    There is no single country in the world that can be adopted as a perfect model forever with out adapting to changing situations and also without taking in to account own country’s historical and current backgrounds. So China is not our ever present model and hence also neither USA nor Europe who are also suffering in economic crisis. So having our own good/bad we better take everything good from any other country and adapt it to our own situation. So just because GS Hu Jintao admits some failures of his CPC, like as is in rampant corruption, does not mean that the system of the West’s chronic Capitalism is the only viable inevitable alternative for us. Bank bail-out and austerity measure in West is such an inherent manifestation of the malfunctioning system of Modern day Chronic Global Capitalism as a viable global social order. So when the writer denounces the demerits in CPC leadership he forgets the alternative social order in crisis in the West like we see it these very days through unemployed and impoverished mass demonstration.
    What the GS is indirectly referring is that China should steadfastly continue in such a balanced way between the two prominent pillars of Mao Zedong Thought on one side and that of Deng Xiaoping Theory on the other side. If the balance between the two is disturbed or destroyed then the outcome is chaos for china. Rampant corruption among the higher members of the CPC, in order to crate such an odd newly emerging complacent comprador elite compliant to the West, is an indication to gradually tempt and plunge China in to the system of the West’s chronic capitalism. This is what the former GS is warning in order to maintain the balance between Mao Zedong Thought on one side and that of Deng Xiaoping Theory on the other side. The Chinese system is a well adapted hybrid one (Socialism and Capitalism) wherein Socialism is the leading Dominant one and Capitalism is subordinate to it. The Chinese have their own historically well founded political philosophy and life Philosophy. The system is designed and run based on this well founded political philosophy and life Philosophy. When we come to Ethiopia it is far different from china in that what is prevailing in Ethiopia is more of ethnically driven Fascism totally different from China. So Developmental-State perpetually hyped by Meles and TPLF taking China as a model is just a hoax to confuse the naive mass and EPRDF cadre. Developmental-State perpetually hyped by Meles and TPLF perfectly works for Tigrians and Tigray Ethnic region through the plundering machine of the economic monopoly of EFFORT. This is the irony of Developmental-State perpetually hyped by Meles and TPLF. But when we come to China the CPC has become conscious of the trends where it would take eventually if corruption among the higher CPC and other odd and newly emerging complacent comprador Chinese elite compliant to the West emerges dominant without proper scrutiny. Yes if such trend is persisting without proper scrutiny the result will be collapse of the entire Chinese system that has been based on the two prominent pillars of Mao Zedong Thought on one side and that of Deng Xiaoping Theory on the other side. So the irony behind the GS speech is not to abandon Socialism and then engage under the undeserved complacent indulgence of West’s bogus democracy. And that is why even the newly elected GS asserted that “we have to be proud not complacent”. Yes the majority of Ethiopian Intellectuals and politicians want to be complacent under undeserved indulgence of West’s bogus democracy. This is the source of one of the main confusion and chaos that is so rampant among us who are so naïve and gullible regarding the fashionable bogus democracy. Believe me such system of the West’s bogus democracy does not work as a viable social order for certain nation like China with a population of 1.3 Billion.
    Because it has such a very destabilizing factor.So I appreciate such remarkable and model type power transfer as is in CPC. And yes indeed the very secret source of Chinese economic growth is such stability and nationality among the Chinese peoples. However when we come to TPLF there is no such nationality feeling and harmony and solidarity that binds nation Ethiopia except divisive rampant ethnicity filled with hostility and mistrust. So the case of China is not such a simple task of Copy-Paste operation we simply adopt and adapt. The Chinese and CPC has chosen what is best for them and we better also chose what is best for us. So neither side of being Pro-USA/West of Pro China/East in such black and white terms is no more useful. So it is better we look inside and just become ourselves.
    Any way Socialism has to revive again locally as well as globally not only as viable economic order even for our national unity and integrity as a 3rd world nation.

  3. Sam
    | #3

    I just read one of Robele’s well-thought-out article. His understanding of China’s politics is commendable. He wrote “Deng Xiaoping Theory saved China from catastrophe due to the reckless experiment set into motion by Chairman Mao’s cultural revolution.” I agree. The Gang of Four, whom Mao’s wife was the prominent member, during the cultural revolution in order to “purify” the party from those who were not sold to Mao’s Thought recklessly silenced those who had differnt political views, real or imagined. My guess is Robele wants the new Prime Minister of Ethiopia to be at least as brave enough as Deng. I am afraid that is not going to happen. The new Prime Minster might have no any “real” power or desire to change the “Status Quo.” The stark difference between the Communist Party of China and EPDRF is the former was not used ethnic politics to further political goals. The latter do. In China the Huns constitute 90 percent of the population. Only the 10 percent belongs to different ethnic groups, so CCP was not consumed with ethnic politics, say, as the Soviet Union was. In Ethiopa ethnic politic plays the major role in shaping politics. EPDRF exists if the different ethnic groups which are members of the party get along. For their own political survival, they should get along. As a result Robele’s wish that “the PM will have to bring to justice all the corrupt greedy top TPLF leadership including Azeb Mesfin”, in my opinion, will not materialize. If Ethiopian opposition parties leaders wish to see EPDRF crack up from within, they should not expect that to be initiated by the Prime Minister. It will come from members or leaders who were sidelined. In the meantime it is unwise to assume the EPDRF leadership will remain as cohesive as it looks now. Does riding OPDO will continue forever? Time will tell.

  4. Dawi
    | #4

    [[..I cannot say the same for the EPRDF Prime Minister (PM) who had opted to copycat the Chinese aging model as a role model for Ethiopia and the developing nations….]]

    I hope you’re not talking about Meles as a “copycat” of “Chinese aging model” because you would be dead wrong.

    As Medhane said Meles if anything took pains in extracting from the thoughts and acts of General Park of South Korea. The economic part was the most attractive for him. Park prosecuted corrupt business people to control the flow of capital so that the government will direct it to the sectors it needed to develop. Meles has done similar things.

    As usual you & others are not getting it but, Azeb being in charge of EFFORT is part of Meles’s skim to help direct HIS VERSION of Ethiopian Developmental State.

    The great leader has achieved & has met the initial requirement for transforming Ethiopia to his vision that is, strong state, mobilization of international resources, stability etc.

    Yes he has delayed democratization until things jell and unfortunetely he passd away too early; the new PM has to work on that part of the equation; no question about it!!

    You have no qualm in praising China and its communist leaders but came short of giving some credit to Ethiopia’s Mao. Such brutal acts by you & others is unfortunate.

    Meles didn’t claim anything but earned it! He deseves the credit.

  5. Dawi
    | #5

    China said:

    [[…Developmental-State perpetually hyped by Meles and TPLF perfectly works for Tigrians and Tigray Ethnic region through the plundering machine of the economic monopoly of EFFORT….]]

    Meles spent most of his time including the revolutionary times studying and teaching. So there is no hype in the person as such. When he reached the top level in his game before his untimely death, he has consolidated power and created his own machine distinct from TPLF by weakening it to no return.

    So we can say he clean started Ethiopian Developmental State from scratch once he became the top dog of the Ethiopian State. There is no “hype” about that! And there is not going back!

    Meles’s economic vision is beyond Tigreans or Ethiopians for that matter; it is going to be embraced by the rest of Africans and beyond.

    Mark his word!!

    | #6

    You are such an amazing creature in your unparalleled stubbornness to twist blatant realities in Ethiopia related to TPLF in support of absolute lies. May be there is some DNA relationship with your dead boss Meles that makes you such a crafty and well experienced sheer liar like Meles whom you defend. Dawi some nuggets of spoon size of truth you throw at us in whatever way you may rationalize to convince or defend does not change the big ocean size lie and crisis you are plunged and swimming in the background in defending the mercenary stooge client-regime of Meles/ TPLF. Some spoon size good things craftily presented in such an oceanic blatant evil thing does not change the overall picture and like wise some spoon sized mistakes does not despoil or cover the oceanic size good thing.
    This is the way I interpret and understand arguments at the deepest level of wisdom. So whatever small truth you rationalize craftily to defend Meles/TPLF does not change the very big TRUTH lurking in the background and screaming loudly. What is EFFORT really? Do CPC or Chinese have ethnically established EFFORT like secluded economic establishment or Empire? For me EFFORT is like the analogous Anglo-Saxon version of elitist political, economical and military power-house establishment in USA. The desire or aspiration of Meles/TPLF is to have similar powerful and dominant establishment ethnic class or society in Ethiopia. Eritreans aspiration after succession was similar to Meles/TPLF though untimely aborted due to the war ignited using Badme as a disguise. Meles/TPLF has been revealing its true hidden nature and agenda naked as open secret but you are striving hard to cover up what Meles/TPLF is revealing it knowingly or unknowingly. It does not matter to what ever degree you strive to rationalize in order to twist blatant realities because no one really takes it seriously and listens to you while in reality things on the ground are the opposite of what you are saying using your keyboards to ‘defend’ your Meles/TPLF.

  7. ጉረኞች
    | #7

    The writer is right on the mark. The problem is you are speaking at both end of you mouth when it come to defend your mighty boss. The person in charge of EFFORT the widow of the deceased midget Meles apparently does not agree with what you are saying. She unequivocally stated that his effort was to develop Tigray not Ethiopia. The writer didn’t say anything different from what she said. If I were you, I wouldn’t argue by saying Tigray is in Ethiopia. That is ቆቅ ለቆቅ አይተናነቅ ነው ጉዳዩ.

  8. Dawi
    | #8

    China great & ጉረኞች : Read the following quote.

    [[..Carsten Holz, an economics professor at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, wrote in the Far Eastern Economic Review that “of the 3,220 Chinese citizens with a personal wealth of 100 million yuan ($13 million) or more, 2,932 are children of high-level cadres. Of the key positions in the five industrial sectors—finance, foreign trade, land development, large-scale engineering, and securities—85 percent to 90 percent are held by children of high-level cadres.”...]]

    China’s Transformational party was not formed in heaven or by some angels is what we read.

    When you follow the money, some group are bound to be involved. So are you going to reject or deny the communist party of china’s role in development of China because their version of “EFFORT” is very narrow and controlled by “children of high-level cadres??


    The bottom line in my opinion is, for a brilliant fellow like Meles, EFFORT and Tigrai where he formed his ORG and started his long journey are small potatoes. Don’t take me wrong, he would like to see Tigrai develop by all means and maybe become a catalyst for the nation like others, but the larger vision/picture of developing Ethiopia, Africa and beyond is what consumed his soul to his last breath.

    That is the only thing that fits his “world class mind” if you ask me.

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