Skip to comments.Political Changes Coming To China
Posted on 11/06/2001 6:44:49 PM PST by Lake
Thursday November 1, 6:00 pm Eastern Time
Political Changes Coming To China
By Arik Hesseldahl
China's vice president Hu Jintao tastes a glass of Chateau Margaux as he visits the famous vinyards near Bordeaux, southwestern France, Saturday, Nov. 3, 2001. Hu is on a five-nation European tour which is a carefully scripted diplomatic debut for Hu, and a sign that he is closer than ever to taking power. Hu will meet with Franch President Jacques Chirac next Monday.(AP Photo/Michel Gangne/Pool)
In the days before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, D.C., the most troubling foreign-policy question looming before the United States was about its relationship with China.
It's been only six months since the Bush Administration's first confrontation with China following the force-down of an American's spy plane over Hainan Island. The incident seemed to set the tone of the new view of China as a strategic competitor rather than the Clinton Administration's view of a partner. Relations with China, it seemed, were on the wane.
Now that Washington's attention is focused on the much bigger diplomatic and military problem of ridding the world of international terrorism, the spy plane incident seems--with the exception of a Chinese demand for $1 million to cover expenses related to lodging the plane and its crew--all but forgotten.
China has carefully sided with the U.S. on the issue of terrorism, but there is plenty of uncertain ground between the two countries. And as China prepares to enter the World Trade Organization next year, a significant change in its leadership is on the horizon. PresidentJiang Zemin, the handpicked successor to late leader Deng Xiaoping, is due to retire from his position as party leader late next year and from his post as president in 2003. His apparent successor, also handpicked by Deng before his death in 1997, is Vice President Hu Jintao, a 58-year old longtime Communist Party operative who caught Deng's eye in 1992.
A virtual unknown on the world stage, Hu's recent tour of Russia and Europe has widely been described as a diplomatic coming-out party. Other than trips to Japan, South Korea and Africa, he's had little contact with other world leaders, and little or no contact with heads of major western powers. His political leanings are hard to discern, and very little is really known about his personality. One phrase that keeps coming up in descriptions of him is "photographic memory." He's known for speaking in public without prepared notes, but not for diverging from the script.
But Hu's background, at least from a western perspective, is troubling. In 1988 and 1989, as a Communist Party chief in Tibet, he crushed pro-independence protests against China's 50-year occupation of the country. While that increased his political popularity at home, the outside world views him with suspicion. Hu recently stopped in London to meet with British Prime MinisterTonyBlairTony Blair; pro-Tibetan protesters chided Blair for "harboring terrorists on Downing Street."
But Hu is certainly not cut from the same cloth as Mao Zedong or Deng, says Prof. Li Cheng, who teaches Chinese politics at Hamilton College in Clinton, N.Y., and recently published a book about the upcoming generation of Chinese political leaders.
"Hu is of the generation that grew up during the Cultural Revolution," Li says, referring to the period of immense political and economic turmoil that dominated China from about 1966 to 1976. "His generation went through a lot of difficulty and are less dogmatic and ideological than previous generations of leaders."
That means Hu and his colleagues will want to establish an economic legacy of their own, based on the continuation of the economic liberalization that has made China such a rising economic force. One issue Li says Hu will have to tackle is the economic gap that exists between coastal Chinese cities, like Shanghai, and less developed inland areas.
But as a ruling force, he's not seen as having the statesmanlike stature of Deng or even Jiang. At 58, he's the youngest of the seven-member Politburo Standing Committee. Li says that China will be governed by the collective will of the party and not as it has been in previous eras by a single charismatic leader like Mao or Deng.
"This generation reflects a broader change from government of a single powerful leader to government by building consensus," Li says.
And while most consider Hu's rise to the presidency a virtual certainty, handpicked successors don't always rise to the top job in the end, says Bates Gill, a China expert at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C.
"The twist of history in China is that being the designated heir often means you don't end up with the job," Gill says. Previous potential successors have been booted from power for advocating views that were too forward thinking or other reason, he says.
And the wishes of the late Deng aside, Hu is not without rivals. Jiang is said to have his own choice for successor in Zeng Qinghong, head of the Communist Party's Organization Department and Jiang's right-hand man in party matters.
And though Jiang may try to exercise power from behind the scenes after he leaves the presidency in the same way Deng did until his death, Li says his ability to do so will be limited.
"Jiang," Li says, "is no Deng Xiaoping."
But when I get to China, I see who?
So he is the one to see?
No, Hee is in the Ministry of Culture. You want to see Hu.
Is in charge of Tourism.
What is his name?
Yes, his name is Wat.
Whoa! Dyslexia attack!
So Hu is really a Ho'?
He is a Ho'?
No Hee is not. Hu is a Ho'.
That's what I'm asking you. Who is the Ho'?
Is in Tourism.
You just gotta begrudge Deng Xiaoping a little respect, he had a lot of perserverance, he didn't let Mao kill him, and relaxed the country from the frothing rhetoric of the hardliners.
I know, I know, Deng was a murdering Chicom tyrant. Don't waste your flames, I'm retiring for the evening. Caio.
>>You just gotta begrudge Deng Xiaoping a little respect
Maybe you misunderstood Li. Jiang is no Deng Xiaoping means Jiang is not able to manipulate the politics behind the scenses. Jiang has to give up power completely. Good or bad, Deng was the last emperor of China.
Chow isn't retiring yet. He is still with the Ministry of Agriculture. Choo is the one who is retiring. His full name is Ah Choo. Gesundheit was the visiting German Ambassador at Ah Choo's retirement party.
Call it what it is -- "Ethnic cleansing." Look for more of the same.