Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Take me to your supreme leader

For the past several administrations it's not been easy to pinpoint China's most powerful leader. That is no longer true. How accurate are the diagrams of the regime's organization?

A very Chinese coup: Li Keqiang is the weakest Chinese prime minister in decades
Li Keqiang
TO MANY foreigners, Li Keqiang’s appointment as prime minister in 2013 was a reassuring choice for a job they assumed would involve day-to-day running of the world’s second-largest economy. A trained economist, he had played a big role in helping the World Bank and a government think-tank produce a joint report calling for bold economic reforms. A few years earlier, as a provincial leader, he had helped two areas achieve faster growth…

This summer… [a]pparent blunders by economic policymakers shook global confidence in China… Did Mr Li, who had warned that reform would be like “cutting off one’s limb”, have the skill to achieve it?…

Prime ministers have long presented China-watchers with a conundrum. In theory they run the government, while the general secretary—today, Xi Jinping—runs the party (except for a brief period after the death of Mao Zedong in 1976, when Hua Guofeng served as party chief as well as prime minister). But there is no clear divide between party and government. The actual power of prime ministers has ebbed and flowed depending on the title-holder...

[See The Economist's thumbnail sketches of the PRC's prime ministers in the whole article.]

Mr Li is more marginal than his forerunners. This was apparent during the summer, when neither he nor other leaders publicly explained the decision to intervene in the stockmarkets…

It may be that Mr Li is less of a whizz than he was made out to be. His critics point out that his record in the provinces was flawed…

He is officially ranked second in the party hierarchy, but it is ever more apparent that Mr Xi largely excludes him from day-to-day decision-making on economic policy. That is a striking change of fortune for a man once thought to be a possible candidate for the role that was eventually filled by Mr Xi… Mr Li is the son of a middle-ranking party official from the central province of Anhui who rose through the Communist Youth League as a protégé of Hu Jintao, Mr Xi’s predecessor. He is serious, low-key and somewhat professorial in manner (he has a PhD in economics from Peking University). But personal networks often matter more than policymaking and management skills. Mr Xi had the right ties, as a “princeling” whose father had been one of Mao Zedong’s aides. Mr Li has no such impressive pedigree…

Since assuming power Mr Xi has pushed Mr Li to one side and taken direct oversight of economic policy. In December 2013 he created a new committee, the Central Leading Group for Comprehensively Deepening Reform—and put himself in charge of it. He also chairs the Central Leading Group on Financial and Economic Affairs, which commissions research and makes policy. Mr Li probably approved the intervention in the stockmarkets, but the decision was mostly likely taken by Mr Xi’s financial leading group. The prime minister was excluded from the drafting of Mr Xi’s flagship economic reforms, which were endorsed by the party’s Central Committee in November 2013. He is similarly unlikely to have been heavily involved in drawing up a new five-year economic plan…

There are even rumours that Mr Li may not get a second term as prime minister in 2018, as convention would grant him. But since most policy already bypasses Mr Li, and he presents no direct challenge to Mr Xi’s position, the prime minister will probably hang on to his job. He still has valuable allies in the Central Committee and he remains the public face of China’s economic policy—the man who does the most handshaking with foreign business leaders. (His command of English helps, a skill that Mr Xi lacks.)…

After Deng Xiaoping rose to power in the late 1970s, the Communist Party adopted a more collective style of leadership than the destructive autocracy of Mao. Mr Xi is taking a different approach, apparently believing that a Putin-style strongman is needed to push through difficult changes. So far, however, he has done far better at accumulating power than executing reforms…

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1 Comments:

At 11:32 PM, Blogger Sunita Gandhi said...

Thank you for that post.
Global Curriculum, Innovative Curriculum

 

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