According to Will Hutton of the Observer, the ongoing 17th Party Congress is, globally, “the biggest political event of this autumn“. Yet, according to the Telegraph’s Richard Spencer, it is “important for the fact that it has been carefully choreographed to be as unimportant as possible”. Spencer writes:
What Hutton is really talking about, you will say, is the shadow leadership election. But what has happened here? According to the semi-official China News Service, more than one next generation leader will be appointed (ie both Xi and Li) to the politburo so that they can compete for the top job next Congress round. The current leadership didn’t like the idea of one man being singled out, and his accession becoming a fait accompli.
Is that true? The reasoning may be an excuse: but nevertheless, the fact remains that there is no certainty that Li Keqiang or Xi Jinping will eventually succeed. (Or Li Yuanchao, whom Hutton identifies in contradiction to most China-based analysts).
And, more to the point: so what if one of them does? Their prominence is precisely because they are acceptable to all current leaders, Xi the front-runner particularly so, and so are being trusted not to want to change anything.
Read also “Congress update: ill-fitting trousers and dodgy vox pops” from Beijing Newspeak, which looks at how the Congress is playing out in the foreign media and to the Chinese man/woman in the street.
[Image: Hu Jintao’s speech sent out ripples of excitement, as seen from Hua Guofeng‘s expression, via Richard Spencer’s blog]