All Eyes on the 5th Generation

With this year’s National People’s Congress in the rear-view mirror, the dismissal of former Chongqing party chief and Politburo Standing Committee hopeful Bo Xilai sets the stage for a wild ride into the CCP’s 18th party congress later this year. Opening a new Guardian series on the upcoming leadership transition titled “China: The Next Generation,” Tania Branigan frames both the uncertainty surrounding the next generation of Chinese rulers and the challenges they will face when they assume power:

Wu Qiang, a political scientist at Tsinghua University, said: “This is the most intense moment in the past 15 years and could have a big impact on society. The upcoming political competition is healthy and worth anticipating, but could potentially result in instability.”

This is the first transition that has not been shaped by the founders of the People’s Republic; President Hu Jintao was picked out by Deng Xiaoping. His ascension was the first relatively straightforward succession in its history.

Xi Jinping will almost certainly become general secretary, then president of China, with Li Keqiang as premier. The rest of the incumbents are expected to make way for newer faces – and perhaps the first woman ever to reach the body.

They will face a far more difficult time than their predecessors, said Cheng Li, a specialist on China’s elite politics at the Brookings Institution in Washington.

In the next part of the series, The Guardian takes the temperature of four leading commentators – Tsinghua University’s Dr. Liu Yu (politics), the Global Environmental Institute’s Jin Jiaman (environment), novelist Yu Hua (society), and Tsinghua’s Wang Hui (economy) –  as they outline the potential roadblocks and opportunities the next generation will encounter. Reflecting on a year of social upheaval in China, Yu Hua looks ahead at what lies in store for the government:

As social conflict becomes sharper, maintaining stability becomes more important. The official figures say the cost of public security is more than 600bn yuan – even more than what is spent on the military, according to western media.

At least right now on the mainland, there hasn’t been any political power strong enough to challenge the party. We can see small-scale protests all over China, but all of them have one thing in common: they only fight local officials, not the central level.

As these small protests become more and more numerous, there will be more problems. The only solution is democracy, to make officials careful about what they say and what they do. If there is not a revolution, the party has to make itself democratic to ensure its own survival.

See also previous CDT coverage of China’s 5th generation of leaders as their time approaches.

March 19, 2012 11:07 AM
Posted By:
Categories: Politics, Society