Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Sunday, February 12, 2012

China's next president, probably

Barring any disaster or highly unlikely scandal, Xi Jinping will become China's next president, and a few years later he might be the most powerful person in the country.

Michael Wines and Edward Wong's article in the New York Times offers a bit of a profile and an insightful analysis of Politburo politics.

In Charged Moment, China’s Political Heir Tries Introducing Himself to U.S.
When China’s vice president and presumptive next president, Xi Jinping, arrives at the White House on Tuesday, American leaders will be scrutinizing him for hints of future stances on crucial issues…

Mr. Xi’s cross-country swing, from Washington to an Iowa farm town to Los Angeles, comes at a politically charged moment in American relations with China…

Mr. Xi, introducing himself to the American public, will showcase a down-home personality in contrast to that of China’s stoic current president, Hu Jintao…

[T]he delicacy of the leadership transition and the structural limits on Mr. Xi’s authority, particularly in his first five-year term in office, [will] hamper attempts by him or his colleagues to push reforms…

The big state corporations… have gained political clout alongside their wealth. They have monopolies on the most important industries — banking, oil, aviation, construction, telecommunications — and they maintain close ties to the top party officials. Two former executives of mammoth oil and machinery companies sit on the current Standing Committee of the Politburo, the nine-member body that essentially runs China by consensus.

The officials expected to take posts on the Standing Committee this October all have ties of some kind to the heads of state enterprises…

[M]ajor policy changes will have to run a gantlet of scrutiny — and potential opposition — by a new Politburo and other Communist Party powers, including Mr. Hu, who, like his predecessors, is expected to still play a signature role.

And the changes are unlikely to be swift. Many near-term economic policies have already been laid out in the party’s latest five-year plan, unveiled last year. Until Mr. Xi manages to fill important jobs with his own allies, a process that will take years, Mr. Hu’s economic blueprint will be the guide.

For some years to come, Mr. Hu is going to be “an overlord,” one economist who has advised party leaders said in an interview late last year. “If Xi has any hope, it’s in his second term” — that is, the last five years of his expected decade-long stint as president.

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