Reuters blog archive
from Ian Bremmer:
As China obsessives know, it is tough to read tea leaves when the water is as opaque as that surrounding China’s Politburo. In the wake of the Chinese leadership transition, we’re left to sift through the news in search of answers. There is plenty we do not know about the process or what its outcome will bring, but when it comes to underlying themes we can understand, it is possible to make some predictions.
Start with solidarity. In the most telling example of Chinese political unity, the Politburo, the elite political body that makes all of China’s major decisions, went from nine people to seven to consolidate control of the political process. The Communist Party is now more unified than before and is less likely to tolerate dissent from within. The stability of the Communist Party is paramount. All else will fall in line.
Note what happens to those who don’t. If the Bo Xilai incident demonstrated anything, it’s that, in China, nails that stick up will be hammered down. There is no room for leaders who stray from the party platform.
Need more evidence that power is being consolidated? Hu Jintao recently surrendered his military position sooner than expected so Xi Jinping, the incoming president, could have more control. Li Keqiang, Xi’s incoming deputy, got the nod to run the economy rather than Wang Qishan ‑ the most senior and noted market reformer of the lot. Three of five of the remaining standing committee members seem to be protégés of former President Jiang Zemin, a sign that the leadership is looking to past success as much as to the future. Again, it’s about consolidation—the easiest way to prevent another Bo is to limit the number of possible Bos.
from Ian Bremmer:
This week -- chads willing -- Americans will finally put an end to four years’ worth of electoral Sturm und Drang. Only then can the country begin to ask the question that matters much more than who will win: Will anything change? On foreign policy, it’s increasingly clear that the answer is, for the most part, no.
Likewise, this week -- politburo willing -- the Chinese will finally put an end to a year of bureaucratic angst. The powers that be hope that once a new president is installed, the Communist Party can put months of scandal behind it (Bo Xilai’s trial and Wen Jiabao’s family fortune, to name just a couple) and start to answer the question they’re most eager to put to bed: Will anything change in a new regime? On foreign policy, it’s increasingly clear that the answer is -- you guessed it -- for the most part, no.
By Wei Gu
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are her own.
China could benefit from a clean break. President Hu Jintao may quit his official positions in the ruling Communist Party when new leaders come in early next year, according to a report on Reuters. That would be a change from the path of his predecessor, Jiang Zemin. It would leave the incomers more room to make their mark, and push through reforms with less distraction from factional fighting.