An article published in the Beijing Daily newspaper in 2006 paved the way for a prospect of political reform in the People's Republic of China. The title and the content of the essay that eventually evolved into a book - Democracy is a Good Thing - and author Yu Keping - director of the Compilation and Translation Bureau of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) - prompted speculation, unsubstantiated by reality, that then President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao would be about to embrace a process of political openness.
Yu kick started the essay in a bold manner: "Democracy is a good thing and this is not just for specific persons or certain officials; this is for the entire nation and its broad masses of people".
What Yu Keping was proposing was not a Western model translated to China, but a path of democratic evolution taking into account the reality of the country. An "incremental democracy" that, from experience in experience, would widen the vote and participation of citizens and officials" accountability, while the Party would maintain a leading role.
More than a decade on, much has changed. In China and in the world. In 2015, Yu left the position he held. Other voices of the so-called "liberal wing" within the CPC ceased to be heard as the debate shrank with current leadership. And the growing tensions around China have made the environment even less conducive to a path of political openness.
However, History continues and structural contradictions did not fade away. On the contrary. From the seed of transformation sowed by Yu will arise potential pathways for evolution and change at a later time.
The scarcity of references to democracy in political speeches on the other side of the Border Gate has a knock on effect on this side. This was noticeable in Li Keqiang's address to the National People's Congress earlier this month. The absence of references to democratic development in Macau and Hong Kong has significance and is a sign of the times.
And the return of the terms "high degree of autonomy" and Macau/Hong Kong people governing Macau/Hong Kong - absent last year - is a positive but insufficient step to re-balance the scales. Democratic development and "high degree of autonomy" are, in fact, two sides of the same coin. They are priceless for the country"s modernization