Wednesday, October 31, 2012

China's November leadership transition

Javier Solano reminds us that "on November 8, more than 2,000 members of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) will gather in Beijing. Approximately a week later, the members of the Politburo Standing Committee will walk out in hierarchical order, preparing to take charge of a growing country of 1.3 billion people." (The World After November Project Syndicate 10/29/2012).

Bloomberg Businessweek recently did an issue featuring several stories on China 10/01/07/2012 issue). Who Really Runs China? 09/26/2012 provides a slideshow rundown on some of the leading figures in the current Chinese Communist Party leadership. The Politburo is the leading body in the Party, and the Standing Committee the core leadership group within the Politburo.

Dexter Roberts in China's Leaders: Who Holds the Real Power? 09/26/2012 summarizes the central leadership groups:

Sometime in the next few weeks, the Chinese Communist Party will likely convene its Party Congress, which meets every five years to set major policies and choose its Central Committee of about 370 members. This year a major leadership change will take place. China watchers are scrutinizing the personality and goals of Vice President Xi Jinping, who’s almost certain to become the country’s next party secretary, president, and, at some point, head of the military. Analyzing Xi is crucial—especially given his recent, mysterious two-week absence from public view. (He’s since been seen in good health at various functions.)

When he assumes the presidency in March, Xi will not rule alone. He’s a member of the Standing Committee of the Politburo, the country’s top leadership body. “The No. 1 leader has some initiative and power. But he is a first among equals and has a lot of restraints,” says Cheng Li, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and an expert on the politics of China’s elite. "Their power is far less than the power of the U.S. president."

The seven- to nine-member Standing Committee of the Politburo came into being in 1956, seven years after the founding of the People'

s Republic of China. Officially, Standing Committee members are selected by a vote of the Central Committee. In reality they are picked in backroom negotiations among outgoing members and a few select party elders, former President Jiang Zemin being paramount among them this time, says Robert Kuhn, author of a biography of Jiang and more recently, How China’s Leaders Think. [my emphasis]
Xi Jinping is one of the top contenders for the main leadership role.

Xi Jinping (b. 1953)

Peter Ford writes about the leadership transition in Who are China's potential new leaders? Christian Science Monitor 10/25/2012.

Both Roberts and Ford speculate that Xi will be the new head of the Party and chief leader. Deutsche Welle provides this sketch of Xi by Mathias Bölinger, Xi Jinping: the compromise candidate 10/30/2012:

Xi is married to Peng Liyuan, his second wife, who is a popular singer in China. Her patriotic songs such as "My Fatherland" and "Forward China" are fitting for the wife of a senior public official. But in the closed world of China's party elite, the high-profile liaison has made Xi a bit of a maverick.

Apart from his marriage, Xi is not perceived as a colourful personality. A dispatch from the US Embassy, published by WikiLeaks, described him as "ambitious, elitist and pragmatic." Born in 1953 to the son of a revolutionary hero, Xi grew up in a circle of elite Communists. To many Communist Party observers, he is one of the so-called "princelings," the name given to the offspring of party elders.

But in the early 1960s, his father fell victim to internal party purges, spending years in prison before being rehabilitated after Mao's death. Under Deng Xiaoping, he served briefly as governor of Guangdong province, which at the time served as a test field for economic reforms.

Like millions of other young people, Xi Jinping was sent to the country during the Cultural Revolution, spending several years in a remote village in Shaanxi province. Back in Beijing, he became immersed in politics and joined the Communist Party - even while his father was still in prison. He began his career in the military, working his way up to become an assistant to Defense Minister Geng Biao in Beijing's elite military circle.

Later Xi was appointed party secretary and governor of the costal provinces Zhejiang and Fujian. There he gained a reputation for having an open ear for the needs of the private sector, which often suffers under the dominance of China's huge state-owned companies. After Shanghai party chief Chen Liagyu was dismissed because of a corruption scandal in 2006, Party Secretary Xi became the most important figure in the economic metropolis. In 2007, he entered into China's inner circle of power - the Politburo nine-member Standing Committee. And in 2008, he was appointed vice president.

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