The new Chinese government might appear different at the outset, but we shouldn’t make any hasty conclusions about its direction.
Power transition in the party-state keeps the world wondering what it will bring to the country’s politics, economy and society. Are changes really on their way?
There are, indeed, numerous aspects about the Congress that seem to indicate significant changes in China’s future. Many Western journalists have commented on the downsizing of the standing committee of the next politburo from nine to seven members, and the CCP’s amendment of its charter.
In addition, in his opening speech on November 8, President Hu Jintao emphasised the importance of organising against corruption and political reform.
As usual, there are curious – but perhaps not so surprising – incidents occurring prior to this major event of the Communist Party. On October 28, netizen ZhangRongya wrote in a post on weibo.com (China’s cross between Twitter and Facebook) that a friend was not able to buy a pair of scissors in Qianmen, Beijing, because the shop asked to see her ID card, which she had forgotten to bring with her.
On October 29, journalists Luo Danyang and Zhou Jingqi from Beijing Youth Daily reported seeing a notice in a shopping centre in Shunyi District, Beijing requiring that customers should present their national ID cards to buy radio-controlled model planes.
Since October 28, many weibo.com users have posted photos of Beijing taxis’ rear windows being locked with the handles having been taken away. Despite how resilient and adaptive the CCP nowadays seems to be, it is after all the world’s largest authoritarian party. Instead of fully embracing liberal ideas, most of the time it still endeavours to control society, and the maintenance of ‘stability’ still ranks high on its priority list.
A smaller-sized standing committee of the politburo is nothing to be excited about. Back in CCP history, a seven-member standing committee was often the case. Nine standing committee members for the politburo only occurred with the last two National Party Congresses, while during the 80s and 90s, the standing committee of the politburo only ever had seven members or less.
Similarly, amending the CCP charter is far from an innovation. Instead, this has been a long-term tradition of the National Party Congress. Foreseeably, the most significant amendment would be to include Hu Jintao’s ‘scientific development’ concept in the CCP charter, so that the fourth generation leadership would leave its trace in the Party’s ideology.
Hu Jintao’s speech on anti-corruption and political reform sounds inspiring and even promising, but this is a long-existing rhetoric in the Party’s discourse since the 1980s and has been repeated by all top leaders in the country. Thus, it would be naïve to believe that the fifth generation rulers would change China’s political landscape thoroughly and completely.
Even if the new leadership might appear different at the beginning, one should be careful to conclude that it would change the orientation of China’s politics. As memory serves, shortly after Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao took office, they handled their first major crisis, the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak, with unprecedented openness and transparency. But the next 10 years under their leadership did not see the rise of civil society and free media.
This is not to say that there is nothing new to expect from the fifth generation leadership’s politics. Mr Xi Jinping, the apparent successor to President Hu Jintao, will become China’s youngest top ruler. At the same time, he would be the first chief commander in the history of the People’s Republic of China who is not appointed by either Mao Zedong or Deng Xiaoping.
This signifies that ‘big man’ politics in China has come to an end. Moreover, Mr Xi Jinping and Mr Li Keqiang (the likely next prime minister), both with doctorate degrees, will be the best-educated top leaders the country has ever had. Moreover, like their Western counterparts, they hold degrees in law and economics. Presumably, this leadership’s way of ruling will differ from that of the technocrats and revolutionists in the past.
At this stage, it is still too early to predict what the 18th Party Congress might mean for the society and the people. There are, however, revealing figures. Among the 2,268 delegates, 7.4 per cent are factory workers, 5.1 per cent higher than the 17th Party Congress. On the other hand, the number of private entrepreneur delegates has doubled from 17 to 34. While not completely discarding the Marxist notion that the Communist Party is the ‘vanguard of the working class’, the CCP is clearly trying to embrace the increasingly important private business sector.Source: ABC Australia “Too early to predict China’s new direction”
- New Rulers of Chinese Communist Party Announced (theepochtimes.com)
- China’s New Leader Xi Jinping (bangladesh2u.com)
- Xi Jinping Replaces Hu Jintao as China Communist Party Chief (bloomberg.com)