China’s new teamThe new leadership lineup of China was finally unveiled after a weeklong party congress under the helm of Xi Jinping, who formerly took power from Hu Jintao as general secretary of the Communist Party and head of the party’s military body. The fifth-generation, paramount decision-making Politburo Standing Committee will likely differ from its predecessor in directing the course of the world’s most populous country and second-largest economy for the next half-decade. The Hu Jintao team was comprised of mostly technocrats who have tried to sustain a status quo rather than lead and govern. The members of the new ruling body have been students of humanities or the social sciences. Of the seven, two have studied law and four economics, indicating the new leadership’s attention on establishing some kind of legal order and putting the economy on a sustainable path.
Xi devoted his solemnly worded inauguration speech to rejuvenating China by improving the lives of the common people. The common Chinese desire better schooling, more stable jobs, more satisfying incomes, better houses, and higher standards of society security and health care. To meet their expectations would be the leadership’s ultimate goal. “The people’s desire for a better life is simply the target of our endeavor,” Xi said. He emphasized stronger law enforcement to root out corruption. “To forge iron, one must be strong,” he said, pledging to clean up the Communist Party first. The appointment of upright former Vice Prime Minister Wang Qishan to head an anti-corruption agency is demonstration of the will to fight corruption by China’s elite.
Rejuvenating the economy and reinforcing law and order are both compelling tasks. Xi said, “Our responsibility is as heavy as Mount Tai, and our journey is long.” Hu Jintao relinquished his control over the party’s military body and completely retired, which could set a precedent. The Politburo seats were trimmed from nine to seven in order to expedite decision-making and fend off intervention or lobbying activities by various interest groups.
The direction on North Korean affairs may not be good. There are several conservative and pro-North Korean members on the ruling body. The new leadership of China will likely wait until the new South Korean president is elected and in office before it declares a policy direction or specific plan for the Korean Peninsula. We cannot run around the new and very different leadership of our neighbor. We have to set our priorities and deal with China with more confidence and wisdom based on public consensus.