China’s Power Predicaments

Today’s New York Times ran an op-ed by scholar and CCP policy advisor Minghao Zhao identifying five “power predicaments” that China must acknowledge as its influence in the world order increases:

The re-emergence of China as a global power does raise a number of questions on what grand strategy China may chose, how China’s power is managed, and what the consequences may be. Against a backdrop of intense, often quarrelsome debate about these issues, five power predicaments facing China must be acknowledged.

• First is how to evaluate its power accurately. [...]

• Second is how to translate its power resources into real power and influence. [...]

• Third is how to exercise power properly and effectively. [...]

• Fourth is how to share power and reassure other countries.[...]

• The fifth and final predicament is how to conserve power and avoid strategic myopia and exhaustion. [...]

Click through to see Zhao’s analysis of each diplomatic quandary.

Another article in today’s New York Times also examines the difficulties of power-wielding in the Chinese context. While Zhao’s op-ed was concerned with international affairs, this piece focuses on the difficulties that Xi Jinping – the man posed to be the next paramount leader of China – might face closer to home:

Slowing economic growth, deepening social tensions and rising military nationalism, centered on China’s controversial claim to virtually the entire South China Sea, provide an increasingly unstable backdrop for hard choices that must be made on balancing prosperity, stability and justice, according to Chinese analysts. People — not just the new, monied middle class, but also farmers and the urban poor — are clamoring for a say over scores of issues, including corruption, land rights, housing and medical care, pollution and, recently, even forced abortions, a gruesome consequence of the one-child policy.

For this reason, insiders say, creating a sense of social equity will be one of the biggest challenges facing the man expected to get the country’s top job — Xi Jinping .

Much rests on the personality of the next leader. What will Mr. Xi be like?[...]

Analyzing a People’s Daily op-ed campaign, The Wall Street Journal’s China Realtime Report” looks at concerns over the fate of the current leadership’s reforms as the next generation’s chance to rule comes into view:

front-page commentary on Monday, for example, lauds the country’s rural reform program, heaping praise on efforts made to provide “peasants more autonomy with an innovative model of rural governance.” All of these labors, the essay notes, are part of a general strategy to move “today’s village from traditional agriculture to modern agriculture.”

[...]Addressing of the party’s response to the 2008 earthquake in Sichuan, Wednesday’s front page essay makes that message explicit. As the party looks to the future, the essay argues, the best approach is “not to simply clone the past, but to stand on the higher starting point” already provided by the reforms under Hu.

That may not turn out to be an easy sell. Other parts of the Party media have been engaged recently in fashioning an image of the next leadership as having deep experience with self-sacrifice as sent-down youth during the Cultural Revolution. That’s no doubt accurate and deservedly laudatory, but it’s more nostalgic than it is the stuff of visionaries and reformers. [...]

For more recent coverage of political power and leadership transition in China, see “Law, Stability and Sliding Reform” and “Are Politburo Hopefuls Ready to Lead?” via CDT.