China’s new leadership—personalities, process, politics, priorities

Parliament house flag post

China’s new leadership—personalities, process, politics, priorities

Posted 20/11/2012 by Cameron Hill


China’s eighteenth National Communist Party Congress has concluded with the unveiling of its new leadership team, the Politburo Standing Committee.  This is the fourth leadership transition since the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) came to power in 1949 and marks the shift to China’s ‘fifth generation’ of political leaders.  The transition takes place as China continues its ascendancy as a regional and global power and at the same time as the CCP is attempting to manage a range of social, economic, and political challenges.

The personalities

At a press conference in Beijing on 15 November, following the week-long Party Congress, China’s new leadership was unveiled to its people and the world.  As expected, Xi Jinping has been pronounced as the next General-Secretary of the CCP, as well as chairman of the Central Military Commission.  Following approval from the National People’s Congress (China’s parliament) in March 2013, Xi will replace Hu Jintao as China’s President. Li Keqiang will be China’s next Premier, also from March 2013, replacing Wen Jiabao.  The other five members of the new Standing Committee are:
  • Zhang Dejiang
  • Yu Zhengsheng
  • Liu Yunshan
  • Wang Qishan
  • Zhang Gaoli
Short biographies of each of these figures, including Mr Xi and Mr Li, can be found here.
The Financial Times has characterised the new leadership as ‘a conservative group likely to favour cautious economic reforms and to steer clear of more radical policy changes’.  As many had predicted, the Standing Committee has been reduced from nine to seven members in an apparent effort to streamline decision making.

The incoming President and Premier both have visited Australia, Mr Xi as Vice-President in 2010 and Mr Li as Vice-Premier in 2009.  Australia’s former Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, has said that Mr Xi is no stranger to Australia and understands ‘where we fit’ in the Asian region.  A former Australian Ambassador to China, Dr Geoff Raby, has said the appointment of Mr Xi ‘bodes very well for the relationship’. The Australian Government has recently stated it aims to ‘build positive, cooperative and comprehensive relations with China’ and has confirmed it is discussing with Chinese officials a more formalised and regular bilateral dialogue arrangement.  

China is the world’s second largest economy (after the United States) and Australia’s largest trading partner.

The process

The CCP has over 82 million members.  The Party Congress, held every five years under tight security, was attended by over two thousand delegates and was the culmination of several years of behind-the-scenes planning and negotiationsamong senior Party members, both serving and retired.  It will result in a cascadeof personnel changes that will see 70 per cent of China’s senior civilian and military positions shift to new leaders, most of whom will remain in place for the next ten years.

As well as the seven member Politburo Standing Committee, the composition of the wider 25 member Politburo, the 204 member CCP Central Committee, and China’s Central Military Commission, which controls the army, has also been changed.  New leaders will take up their positions in the coming months, with those holding senior government positions to be approved by the People’s Congress early next year.

The next Party Congress, to be held in 2017, will review the new leadership’s performance at the end of its first term and will likely see further personnel changes ahead of the more important 2022 Congress.

The politics

In the months leading up to the Congress, there were numerous reports by Western and independent regional media speculating on the behind-the-scenes manoeuvring that has accompanied the leadership transition.  Some analysts describedthe transition as ‘chaotic’, pointing to the delay in the timing of the Congress and multiple campaigns by different factions to discredit rivals through accusations and rumours of abuse of power and corruption.

While the elevation of Xi and Li was largely pre-ordained, the candidates for the remaining Standing Committee positions were seen to be protagonists in a variety of larger factional struggles.   These have been variously described as struggles between so-called liberal ‘reformers’ and the conservative ‘neo-Maoists’, ‘princelings’ (the sons and daughters of revolutionary Communist leaders) and ‘populists’ (usually associated with the Communist Youth League), as well as a struggle for personal power and influence between outgoing President Hu and his predecessor, Jiang Zemin.

All of this took place against the backdrop of the expulsionfrom the CCP of former high-profile Chongqing party boss, Bo Xiali, who was seen as a future leadership contender, as a result of a corruption and murder scandalinvolving his wife.

Both the incoming Mr Xiand the departing Mr Wenhave been the subject of recent Western media reports, reportedly blocked in China, on the reputed wealth of their families and their connections to various state-owned and private business interests.

The priorities

In his speechto the Congress, outgoing President Hu, like his predecessors, highlighted the major challenge that corruption poses to the future survival of the CCP.   He also affirmed the need for further ‘reform’.  While the nature of political reform was not specified, accordingto one Chinese academic, ‘reform’ in this context could mean granting  the judiciary greater independence, gradually making officials publicly declare their assets, and eventually allowing multiple handpicked candidates to compete for some party positions.  Hu alsohighlighted the need for China to safeguard its ‘maritime rights and interests’ and describedpublic ownership as the ‘mainstay of the economy’.

The priorities that the new leadership will pursue are not yet known and remain the subject of widespread speculation.  Most analysts agree that balancing economic growth with social stability will be their core domestic goal.  The new leadership will also be under pressure to advance a variety of inter-related reforms seen as crucial to addressing China’s profound economic and social challenges—enhancing the role of the private sector and scaling back the control exerted by monopolistic state-owned enterprises, increasing domestic wages and consumption, confronting inequality and environmental degradation, preparing for an ageing population, and tackling corruption. Many of these reforms were outlined in a landmark World Bank report, approved by Mr Li, released earlier this year.

Some China experts have arguedthat, at least for the short-term, the price of more domestic reform could be a more assertive and nationalistic foreign policy aimed at placating Party conservatives. Others have contendedthat, in the wake of the Congress, China will eventually ‘glide’ towards a less confrontational foreign policy stance toward its neighbours and the US as it focuses on domestic reform and economic growth, of which ‘the populace has huge expectations’.

Australia will be hopeful of the latter scenario as it begins to engage with the new leadership.     

Comments

  • 21/01/2014 2:27 PM
    Flabmeister said:

    82 million members is a big number. However I wonder (a) how it relates to the overall population of China and (b) how that relates to the members of other countries' political parties as proportions of the population of those countries. By way of example The Economist recently commented on the decline of political parties in the UK by saying the combined membership of the three major parties was less than 1 million (the approximate membership of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds).


Thank you for your comment. If it does not require moderation, it will appear shortly.
Facebook LinkedIn Twitter Add | Email Print

FlagPost

Flagpost is a blog on current issues of interest to members of the Australian Parliament


Parliamentary Library Logo showing Information Analysis & Advice

Archive

Syndication

Tagcloud

refugees asylum immigration Australian foreign policy Parliament climate change elections women social security Indigenous Australians Australian Bureau of Statistics Employment Sport illicit drugs people trafficking taxation Medicare welfare reform Australian Defence Force higher education welfare policy United Nations Asia income management Middle East criminal law disability Australian Sports Anti-Doping Agency World Anti-Doping Agency United States federal budget health financing gambling school education forced labour aid statistics Australian Electoral Commission WADA emissions trading Australia in the Asian Century steroids detention Private health insurance OECD ASADA labour force transport Law Enforcement Australian Federal Police Industrial Relations people smuggling dental health National Disability Insurance Scheme Australian Crime Commission slavery Senate election results Papua New Guinea Australian Public Service International Women's Day corruption Afghanistan Fair Work Act child protection debt federal election 2013 parliamentary procedure poker machines ALP New Zealand Newstart Parenting Payment 43rd Parliament political parties Census constitution High Court skilled migration voting Federal Court terrorist groups Higher Education Loan Program HECS youth paid parental leave Aviation environment foreign debt gross debt net debt defence capability customs doping health crime health risks multiculturalism aged care Gonski Review of Funding for Schooling sex slavery sea farers Special Rapporteur leadership United Kingdom UK Parliament Electoral reform politics banking firearms public policy violence against women domestic violence mental health China ADRV terrorism social media pensions welfare ASIO intelligence community Australian Security Intelligence Organisation governance public service reform Carbon Pricing Mechanism carbon tax mining military history employer employee fishing by-election European Union same sex relationships international relations coal seam gas family assistance planning United Nations Security Council Australian economy food vocational education and training Drugs Indonesia children codes of conduct terrorist financing money laundering Productivity asylum seekers early childhood education Canada Population Financial sector national security fuel disability employment Tasmania integrity science research and development Australian Secret Intelligence Service sexual abuse federal state relations World Trade Organization Australia accountability housing affordability bulk billing water renewable energy children's health health policy Governor-General US economy export liquefied natural gas foreign bribery question time speaker superannuation expertise Senators and Members climate Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Department of Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry food labelling Pacific Islands reserved seats new psychoactive substances synthetic drugs UNODC carbon markets health reform Indigenous constitutional recognition of local government local government consumer laws PISA royal commission US politics language education baby bonus Leaders of the Opposition Parliamentary remuneration health system Australia Greens servitude Trafficking Protocol energy forced marriage rural and regional Northern Territory Emergency Response ministries social citizenship human rights citizenship Defence High Court; Indigenous; Indigenous Australians; Native Title ACT Indigenous education Norfolk Island External Territories emissions reduction fund; climate change child care funding refugees immigration asylum procurement Indigenous health e-voting internet voting nsw state elections 44th Parliament 2015 ABS Age Pension Death penalty capital punishment execution Bali nine Bali bombings Trade EU China soft power education Fiji India Disability Support Pension Antarctica Diplomacy by-elections state and territories workers Bills anti-corruption fraud bribery transparency corporate ownership whistleblower G20 economic reform innovation standards NATO Members of Parliament Scottish referendum Middle East; national security; terrorism social services Criminal Code Amendment (Misrepresentation of Age to a Minor) Bill 2013 online grooming sexual assault of minors ACT Assembly public health smoking plain packaging tobacco cigarettes Asia; Japan; international relations Work Health and Safety Migration; asylum seekers; regional processing China; United States; international relations fiscal policy Racial Discrimination Act; social policy; human rights; indigenous Australians Foreign policy Southeast Asia Israel Palestine regional unemployment asylum refugees immigration political finance donations foreign aid Economics efficiency human rights; Racial Discrimination Act employment law bullying Animal law; food copyright Australian Law Reform Commission industry peace keeping contracts workplace policies trade unions same-sex marriage disorderly conduct retirement Parliament House standing orders public housing prime ministers election timetable sitting days First speech defence budget submarines Somalia GDP forestry world heritage political engagement leave loading Trade; tariffs; safeguards; Anti-dumping public interest disclosure whistleblowing Productivity Commission regulation limitation period universities Ireland cancer gene patents genetic testing suspension of standing and sessional orders animal health live exports welfare systems infant mortality middle class welfare honorary citizen railways disciplinary tribunals standard of proof World Health Organisation arts international students skilled graduate visas temporary employment visas apologies roads Italy national heritage NHMRC nutrition anti-dumping Constitutional reform referendum Rent Assistance competition policy pharmaceutical benefits scheme obesity evidence law sacrament of confession US presidential election international days DFAT UN General Assembly deregulation Regulation Impact Statements administrative law small business Breaker Morant homelessness regional engagement social determinants of health abortion Youth Allowance Members suspension citizen engagement policymaking federal election 2010 workplace health and safety Trafficking in Persons Report marine reserves hearing TAFE Victoria astronomy resources sector YMCA youth parliament alcohol Korea rebate Australian Greens presidential nomination Racial Discrimination Act entitlements political parties preselection solar hot water Financial Action Taskforce Horn of Africa peacekeeping piracy Great Barrier Reef Stronger futures political financing Hung Parliament political education social inclusion Social Inclusion Board maritime early childhood National Quality Framework for Early Childhood Education and Care Murray-Darling Basin Iran sanctions Norway hospitals

Show all
Show less
Back to top