China’s new leadership lineup; cautious reformist or conservative?

Li Keqiang

In its report yesterday entitled Cautious reformers tipped for new China leadership, Reuters lists ten main candidates for the party’s next Politburo Standing Committee based on information from sources close to the leadership.

Reuters provides the reform credentials of the ten, one by one, and concludes that the Committee will mainly consist of cautious reformists.

On November 2, on the basis of its sources, SCMP gave its report contrary to Reuters’ with the title “Conservatives dominate latest line-up for new Communist Party leadership”

The five potential members (excluding Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang who will certainly be members) and two less possible according to SCMP’s sources are identical to nine in Reuters’ list of ten.

Why does SCMP regard the new lineup of the seven as conservative, but Reuters regard it as cautious reformist?

Reuters bases its analysis on the reform credentials of the seven, regarding three of them, Xi Jinping, Li Keqiang and Yu Zhengsheng as cautious reformers and two of them, Wang Qishan and Zhang Gaolias, as financial reformers.

SCMP’s analysis is based on China’s faction politics. As judging by the new lineup, Jiang Zemin continues to control a majority and as according to SCMP, Jiang is a conservative, the new lineup must be conservative.

However, SCMP’s analysis of Jiang is probably based on its first impression.

I said in my post dated November 2 on SCMP’s report, that when Jiang had not established his power base, he appeared 100% a conservative and in an internal meeting even said, “If we don’t stop these business owners, they will put an end to socialism.”

However, when Jiang had established his position as the core, he put forth his Three Represents to justify the pursuit of capitalism, and even advocated recruiting entrepreneurs into the Party.

Jiang’s economic reform was much more profound than Zhao Ziyang’s, still his image as a conservative remains.

When Jiang was the general secretary, he made great efforts to establish the rule of law. After his retirement, his protégé Hu Bangguo, the rank two leader, carried on the work. The power struggle against Bo Xilai began with Wu’s efforts to implement the rule of law against Bo’s disrespect of the rule of law in Bo’s campaign against organised crime.

The National People’s Congress, under Wu’s control, amended China’s criminal procedure law for better implementation of the rule of law weeks before the beginning of the Bo Xilai saga.

I believe that Jiang and his faction’s priority in political reform is the rule of law. It does not mean that he is against democracy. In fact, building the foundation for democracy as the rule law is indispensable for democracy.

However, is the new lineup indeed conservative or cautious reformist? We really do not know for sure. China’s power centre is such a black box that I would rather quote well-known American journalist Nicholas Kristof’s words again, “China-watchers have a deplorable record and China’s history is one of unpredictable twists and turns.”

Categories: Politics & Law

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