Chinese Foreign Policy After Hu
In the Diplomat, Minxin Pei looks at what next year’s leadership transition in Beijing might portend for China’s foreign policy:
In about a year’s time, a new group of leaders in Beijing will succeed President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao. At the moment, analysts are focused primarily on the make-up of the nine-member Politburo Standing Committee, the supreme policy making body of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Vice President Xi Jinping and Executive Vice Premier Li Keqiang, both members of the standing committee now, are assured of succeeding Hu and Wen, respectively. As a result, the guessing game that has engrossed many China watchers is over who will replace the other seven retiring members.
Speculating about top personnel decisions is both risky and not all that interesting. Such decisions are reached through intricate factional bargaining and compromises, and the ultimate outcome is typically not determined until the very end. Worse, handicapping the chances of frontrunners usually distracts us from trying to understand the broader policy implications of leadership transition. We become too preoccupied with the shifting fortunes of factions within the CCP leadership to explore whether leadership change actually affects policy.
So a more fruitful way of getting ourselves prepared for China’s upcoming leadership transition is to look back at history and examine whether the past top leadership changes resulted in significant foreign policy changes, and what explained such major shifts.