China’s Communist Party Selects New Leaders

 

China Leaders

China’s ruling Communist Party met at the 18th National Congress last year to unveil its new leadership line-up.

Elections in the People’s Republic of China (“PRC”) are based on a combination of direct and indirect voting systems, whereby local People’s Congresses are directly elected, and all higher levels of People’s Congresses up to the National People’s Congress, China’s top law- making body, are indirectly elected by the People’s Congress of the level immediately below. Every five years the PRC’s Politburo, China’s top policy-making body, selects a candidate for presidency, whom the National People’s Congress then elects as its leader. It is a single- candidate election.

At its 18th National Congress, held in November last year, the Communist Party of China (“CPC”) appointed a new leadership, with Mr. Xi Jingping assuming the position of general secretary of the Central Committee of the CPC, bringing an official end to the 10-year reign of Hu Jintao. Mr. Hu will, however, continue as President until China’s Parliament meets in March.

Millions of people around China tuned in to see Mr. Xi lead the other members of the new Politburo Standing Committee onto the stage at the Golden Hall in central Beijing.

Mr. Xi also succeeded Mr. Hu as head of China’s Central Military Commision, which oversees major national security and military affairs. The fact that China’s new president will head both the Party and its highest military authority should make the transition easier than in the past, when former Party chiefs clung to that position for years afterwards and continued to exercise considerable power and influence.

Mr. Li Keqiang, China’s former Vice-Premier, will take over as Premier when Wen Jiabao steps down at the annual Parliament session in March.

The selection of the seven members of the Politburo Standing Committee (“PBSC”) and the 25-member Politburo was approved at a meeting of the newly appointed 376 member 18th Central Committee, whose members were elected by the National People’s Congress. As expected, The PBSC has been reduced from nine to seven members, which should help ease consensus-building and make China’s highest authority more efficient.

Mr. Xi and Mr. Li are the only members of the former 9-member PBSC who will hold on to their positions within China’s ruling body. The other members, in order of rank, were announced as: Zhang Dejiang, Chongqing Party Secretary; Yu Zhengsheng, Shanghai Party Secretary; Liu Yunshan, a senior propaganda official; Wang Qishan, a Vice Premier in charge of economic affairs and Zhang Gaoli, Party Secretary in Tianjin.

China’s next leaders: Who’s who

Mr. Xi had long been expected to be appointed as president. He is a member of the Party’s “princeling” generation, the descendants of China’s original communist revolutionaries. He watched his father being purged during the Cultural Revolution. He later spent years working on an agricultural commune himself before making his way to the prestigious Tsinghua university in 1975 and then to power. He entered the Standing Committee of the Politburo in 2007 and in 2008 became the country’s Vice President. Married to a famous chinese folk singer named Peng Liyuan, Mr. Xi is known as a moderate, pragmatic and consensus-building leader.

Li Keqiang, who is known to be a reformer, also spent four years doing manual labor in the countryside during Mao’s Cultural Revolution. He is not a member of the Party’s “princeling” generation but is considered a core member of president Hu Jintao’s “Tuanpai faction”, whose ties originate from the Communist Youth League. Mr. Li also entered the Politburo Standing Committee in 2007. “Based on his previous work and the populist policy agenda he shares with his mentor Hu Jintao, Li’s hot-button policy issues will include increasing employment, offering more affordable housing, providing basic health care, balancing regional development and promoting innovation in clean energy technology,” according to Dr. Cheng Li, director of research and senior fellow at the John L. Thornton China Center (Brookings Institution) in Washington.

China’s new leaders to face “severe challenges”

In his first speech as the head of the Party, Mr. Xi said the new leadership faced “enormous responsibility” but would fight for a “better life” for all China’s 1.3 billion people. ”Our people yearn for better education, more stable jobs, more income, greater social security, better medical health care, improved housing conditions, and a better environment”, he said. “The people’s desire for a better life is what we shall fight for”. He also spoke of several “severe challenges” facing the new leadership, refering to “problems among Party members of corruption, taking bribes, being out of touch with the people, and an undue emphasis on going through formalities and bureaucratism”.

With growing public anger over several topical issues from corruption to environmental degradation, Chinese people are now pushing for more political reform. The party could introduce experimental measures to encourage greater debate within the party – but stability remains top priority and one-party rule will be safeguarded.

by Jonathan Pecaut-Dupy

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