Posted by: mulrickillion | February 11, 2012

China in 2012: The Politics and Policy of Leadership Succession

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Second Row, Center, Xi Jinping (L) and Li Keqiang (R) Poised to Emerge at the 18th Party Congress.

By Bruce Gilley, China Brief, Vol. 12, Iss. 2, Jan 20, 2012 —

In 2012, China will enter for the first time an era in which political leadership is held by people who do not have the direct imprimatur of veterans of the Chinese revolution. This will be important not just because it means they will have to work harder to establish their personal legitimacy as rulers, but also because it will open up wider possibilities for new thinking and bold policies.

The political challenges facing Xi Jinping, who will be installed as general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party in a succession scheduled for late 2012, concern both policy and government reform. Key benchmarks can be used to trace the implications of each of these three political stories of 2012—succession, policy and government—giving signs about the future direction of politics and leadership in China.

The Succession

There is little doubt that Xi Jinping will become CCP General Secretary. Under a succession process overseen by the party’s Organization Department under the “third generation” party leader Jiang Zemin, who was party general secretary from 1989 to 2002, Xi was identified as early as 1997 as the “fifth generation” head of the party after a broad-based vetting by the party of widely-admired younger leaders [1]. In that year, Jiang appointed Xi as an alternate member of the party’s Central Committee after the party rank-and-file failed to elect him to the body.

Since then, Xi has cultivated carefully his image and his alliances within the party leadership in order to consolidate his succession. Xi however lacks the revolutionary imprimatur of his predecessors. His father was a party revolutionary, but one who frequently butted heads with both Mao and Deng and is thus tainted in the minds of some in the party. The nod from Jiang, meanwhile, carries little weight within the party elite because Jiang did not fight in the revolutionary war and thus, even though he is a former top leader, he lacks the historical mantle of previous elders. Indeed, Jiang probably did not even join the party until after it emerged victorious in Shanghai, where he was a student, despite claims to the contrary. Hu Jintao, by contrast, was chosen by an ally of Deng Xiaoping and enjoyed Deng’s support, giving him a virtually untouchable position despite his gray personality. He too, however, will lack authority once he retires because his position was given as part of a new model of orderly, planned retirements of top leaders.

For that reason, the broader slate of candidates who join the CCP’s Politburo Standing Committee in late 2012 along with Xi will be critical. . . .

The Jamestown Foundation: China in 2012: The Politics and Policy of Leadership Succession

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