Friday, 2 November 2012

Say it Ain't So...

China likes to boast that it has "intra-Party democracy", in that members of the Communist Party of China have a say in how the country is run.

But in fact it's very political in the upper echelons and come next Thursday we will start to see the results of the power struggles in the last several months.

While it's pretty much decided that Xi Jinping will become President and Li Keqiang Premier, we have still yet to hear who will be filling the seats of the Politburo Standing Committee. The big rumour is that the number will go down from nine to seven and the latest is that former President Jiang Zemin still has the power to promote his own people than current President Hu Jintao who will step down.

The word is that Hu's proteges, party organization department head Li Yuanchao and Guangdong party chief Wang Yang were omitted from the possible lineup of the Politburo.

One local newspaper is making this prediction along with Xi and Li Keqiang:

Zhang Dejiang, vice-premier and Chongqing party chief
Liu Yunshan, propaganda chief
Yu Zhengsheng, Shanghai party chief
Zhang Gaoli, Tianjin party chief
Wang Qishan, vice-premier

Zhang Dejiang, Liu, Yu and Zhang Gaoli are considered conservatives which seems to indicate there may be no bold political reforms on the horizon despite the downfall of Chongqing party chief Bo Xilai with his ultra-leftist philosophy.

Also this reveals that Hu's power base seems to be much weaker than most of us believed compared to Jiang.

"That he cannot prevail against the 86-year-old Jiang is amazing," remarked Professor Kerry Brown, a specialist in Chinese politics at the University of Sydney.

Other analysts believe the promotions of Yu, Zhang Dejiang and Liu are due to an unwritten rule that seniority is favoured over competence, which may explain why Li Yuanchao and Wang were not elevated, as Li is 62 and Wang 57, while the others are well into their 60s.

Beijing-based analyst Chen Ziming says the promotion of these conservatives indicates the Party has no interest in pursuing democratic reforms which is very disappointing to hear if this is correct.

There is a real urgency for political and in particular economic reforms and if Xi doesn't have the power base to push them through, China will be teetering to the edge of collapse.

State-owned enterprises have become too bloated and become even more so with easy credit from state-owned banks, while small- and medium-sized businesses are having the hardest time getting loans and must resort to loansharks in order to expand or improve their enterprises.

And because of this there is a lack of innovation in the country with not enough competition and also there is no inherent culture of questioning things thanks to the rote system of education.

The list of things that need fixing could go on forever including the environment and safe food to eat...

So a lot of overhaul is needed, but if there is no political will at the top, how will China ever change for the better?

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