The seventeenth national congress of the Chinese Communist Party on 15-19 October 2007 is attracting high levels of interest from the foreign media. According to some reports, more than 1,000 foreign journalists have already applied to cover the event. Many of these reporters have been contacting me for explanations of the issues involved, and one prominent subject has been the rising political stars who may soon be promoted to positions of greater power. It seems to me that there is a lot of misunderstanding of the competition between the so-called “princelings” and their putative different factions, so this column attempts to clarify this by providing a brief analysis of this question. [Full Text]
Read aslo China’s Most Powerful “Princelings”: How Many Will Enter the New Politburo? by Cheng Li (ÊùéÊàê) from China Brief:
High on the list of conceivable outcomes of the 17th Party Congress that will cause strong social resentment in China is the possibility that the newly established Politburo will be filled with many “princelings,” leaders who come from families of former high-ranking officials. In the eyes of the Chinese public, market reforms in the past three decades have not only brought about rapid economic growth, but have also led to the rise of enormous economic disparities. It has been widely noted that large numbers of Communist Party leaders have taken advantage of their political power to convert the assets of the state into their own private wealth. The presence of a large number of princelings in the new Politburo would likely reinforce public perceptions of the convergence of power and wealth in the country.
Family ties and nepotism in elite recruitment are certainly not unique to China, and they are at times instrumental in the political career advancements of leaders in democratic countries. Yet, general elections in democracies tend to confer legitimacy on politicians even if they hail from a politically powerful family or were born with a “silver spoon” in their mouth. In an authoritarian regime such as China where leaders are selected rather than elected, however, the top officials who come from privileged family backgrounds are generally suspected of having reached their high positions primarily because of political nepotism. At a time when Hu Jintao presents himself as a populist leader whose administration places a top priority on increasing social fairness and equality, the presence of a large contingent of princelings in the next Politburo would be seen as a great irony, thus significantly undermining Hu’s populist claims. [Full Text]