The big question everyone in the know was asking going into this week’s 17th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party was who would emerge as the anointed next leader of China. But there remains the other big question, one that too often goes unasked: How much does it matter?
This is no Ralph Nader-esque red herring of cynicism along the lines of arguing in 2000 that there was no difference between Al Gore and George W. Bush in America’s “broken” two-party system. It is, rather, a fundamental question about the nature of the one party that continues to rule the world’s largest country, despite failing to address endemic corruption, widespread pollution and an ever-widening chasm between rich and poor.
Are today’s leaders changing the Chinese Communist Party, courageously pushing radical reforms to tackle these daunting challenges? Or does the party’s entrenched authoritarian ethos inevitably transform the men who rise to lead it, so that only the cautious Party Man, jealous of the party’s prerogatives, can rise to the top? [Full Text]