Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Friday, March 15, 2013

With power and with limitations

China's new leaders offer examples of the power of the office and the limits of situations.

China’s New Prime Minister Faces Test in Bolstering Economy
China’s new prime minister, Li Keqiang, entered the job on Friday inheriting a wobbling economy that could distract his government from its bold vows to clean up pollution and harness expanding towns and cities as an engine for growth…

Mr. Li, 57, has already laid out a vision of economic uplift driven by urbanization. He gained a doctorate in economics from the Peking University, where he wrote about narrowing the urban-rural gulf…

Li Keqiang and Xi Jinping
Yet Mr. Li inherits economic hazards that could preoccupy his government and deter bold policy gambits. The hazards include an overheated property market that has defied government measures intended to tame price increases and make housing more affordable, worries about debts run up by local governments, and cautious lower-income consumers who remain reluctant to spend at the level many economists say is needed for healthy growth over the long term…

China’s New President Nods to Public Concerns, but Defends Power at Top
Xi Jinping, the new leader of the Communist Party, assumed the presidency of China on Thursday…

The new president faces conflicting expectations of how he will apply the power in his hands — expectations that he kindled himself. Since he succeeded Hu Jintao as party leader in November, he has used meetings, speeches and visits to a frenetic coastal city and a dirt-poor village to signal that he wants some economic liberalization, more room for citizens to criticize the government, and a crackdown on the official corruption that has infuriated Chinese citizens.

Yet Mr. Xi has also rejected any turn to Western-inspired political liberalization, and has demanded utter loyalty from officials and the military…

[A]nalysts and former officials say Mr. Xi and his comrades face other, no less forbidding, obstacles to their vows of change: the array of powerful political families, state-owned conglomerates and ordinary urban residents who fear that change could threaten their interests…

Parliament offered signs of the obstacles that any ambitious change will face. A reorganization of government ministries and agencies approved by delegates turned out to be much less thorough than what political insiders and analysts said was proposed several months ago. The powers of the National Development and Reform Commission, which many pro-market economists see as a hurdle to real reform, remained untouched…

In comments to officials that have not been openly published, Mr. Xi has warned against confusing his idea of reform with Western-inspired democratization.

“Some people define reform as reforming in the direction of Western universal values and a Western political system, otherwise it’s not reform,” Mr. Xi said in a copy of his comments that has circulated among officials. “This is stealthily switching one idea for another, and it distorts what reform is for us.”

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