China’s Choice of Leaders Restricts Reform

The Financial Times describes the opaque process by which national leaders in China are selected and approved, and how the necessary appeasement of special interests suppresses reform.

Even now, outsiders cannot discount the possibility that China’s leaders are actually chosen by consulting the stars, throwing darts at a wall or picking names out of a hat.

But the party does seem to be trying to put in place a system where the candidates for the very top jobs are identified early through a compromise between the leaders of two or three powerful factions ….

The candidates for lesser positions in the standing committee are chosen much later but all, including the senior candidates, must apparently be vetted in a consultative process involving 50 or so powerful party families and an increasingly wide array of political players.

Chinese officials point to this process of consensus building as a step towards democracy but analysts warn that it could actually lead more towards oligarchy and policy paralysis.

Their reasoning is simple. Future leaders are now chosen by a couple of hundred people instead of a handful of party elders and most of today’s power brokers are patrons for powerful economic interests. That means the current leaders must not offend too many special interests if they hope to get their people to succeed them. The problem is it also means that the political and economic reforms necessary to keep China stable and growing are increasingly being delayed or watered down.


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