Xi Jinping takes China's reins. Will he promote political reform? (+video)
Xi Jinping, the new leader of the Communist Party, is considered to be reform-minded, but the party's new leadership team is dominated by change-wary conservatives.
(Page 2 of 2)
Flanking Xi and Li instead, were five men in their 60s, all but one of whom will be too old to stand for re-election at the next party Congress in five years’ time, according to party rules that prevent the election of anyone over the age of 70. In order of seniority, they were Zhang Dejiang, a tough party fixer, Yu Zhengsheng, head of the party in Shanghai, Liu Yunshan, the party’s head censor, Wang Qishan, a veteran economic policymaker, and Zhang Gaoli, party boss in the port of Tianjin.Skip to next paragraph
In Pictures China reinvents itself
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
“These are people who have been solid local officials and members of the Politburo for some time. It’s more a continuity team than anything else,” says Sidney Rittenberg, once Mao Zedong’s interpreter and a close observer of Communist Party affairs. (Read more about Sidney Rittenberg and his relationship with Mao here)
“You’ll probably see them acting quite capably on economic reform,” adds Li Cheng, an expert on Chinese leadership issues at the Brookings Institution in Washington. “But you cannot expect this team to push for political reform, which will make economic changes harder.”
Since four members of the new Standing Committee will likely be forced to retire in 2017, that might offer an opportunity for younger and more modern leaders to take top jobs in five years’ time, Professor Zhang points out. “But by failing to bring young men in now, they will have wasted five years,” he worries.
One novelty and a first
The new Standing Committee does introduce one novelty to the rarefied ranks of China’s top leaders: For the first time, a majority of them will have undergone the formative experience of having been “sent down” to the countryside as youths during the Cultural Revolution.
“That might have some sort of impact” on the party’s sensitivity to the problems faced by those left behind by China’s economic miracle, most of whom are farmers, says Michel Bonnin, a China expert at the School for Advanced Social Science Studies in Paris.
“When people like Xi speak of being close to the people, as he did in his speech today, that is more than just a formality, it means something to them,” Professor Bonnin suggests.
China’s once-in-a-decade leadership transition may not have brought a new generation to dominance, as some reformists had hoped, but it did mark the second peaceful and orderly handover of power in China’s modern history.
It also marked the first time that an outgoing leader surrendered all of his powers to his successor. Departing party leader Hu Jintao gave up his chairmanship of the party’s Central Military Commission, and Xi took over the post, becoming commander in chief of the armed forces.
Ten years ago, outgoing party boss Jiang Zemin held onto the powerful military job for two years into Mr. Hu’s term of office.
Seemingly confident of his authority, Xi made a brief and unusually jargon-free speech on Thursday, in marked contrast to the notoriously wooden style of his predecessor, Hu.
“There was something less robotic, more human about him,” says Bonnin. “There could be a change of style in the leadership. But that does not necessarily mean that there will be any deep or radical changes of policy.” (Read more about who's who in the new leadership lineup here)