The Transition of Power in China
In a remarkable bloodless leadership transition for a communist country, China’s new leader, 59 years old Xi Jinping is set to take over the reins of power in March next year along with Li Kegiong who is 57. Xi Jinping will then become the supreme leader – Head of State, Secretary General of Chinese Communist Party and most important – Head of the Central Military Commission (CMC).
A few points that need to be noted are: –
As far as China is concerned, there is unlikely to be any urgency in solving the border issue. China is already in possession of most of its claim area in Ladakh and continues to stake claim on Arunachal Pradesh with a view to keeping India unbalanced and unhinged.
- There has been more transparency in selection of the leaders and the Politbureau members. A meeting was convened in May and all appointments finalised; these were formalised in the party congress in October.
- Politbureau Standing Committee strength has been reduced from seven to five in order to speed up decision making.
- Although Xi is 59 years old and Li is 57, the other five members of Politbureau Standing Committee are into their late sixties. So there is a mix of old and the young.
Background of Xi Jinping
- He is known as a Princeling – son of Mao era revolutionary Xi Zhongxnh who was also Mao’s propaganda chief.
- Notwithstanding the above, his father was purged during cultural revolution from 1966 to 1976 and young Xi was sent to a village commune in rural China. That perhaps may be the reason that he did not refer to Mao in his acceptance speech
- He joined the communist party in 1974, and graduated in chemical engineering from Beijing’s prestigious Tringhna University. Later, he was Fulbright scholar in the US.
- He has been party secretary in Fujian and Shanghai and later Head of Tibet Work Force in 2011. The latter post has helped him understand the Tibet problem.
- He is married to popular folk singer and a national celebrity Peng Liyuch.
- His daughter lives in anonymity in US.
Likely Domestic Policy
- The domestic policy is likely to be one of continuity with change as indicated by Xi Jinping’s acceptance speech wherein he stated …“Our responsibility now is to rally and lead the party and the people of all ethnic groups in China and in making continuous efforts to achieve the great renewal of the Chinese nation and make with greater contribution to mankind”.
- The most important test for Xi will be to pilot political and economic reforms through the all-powerful Politbureau Standing Committee which has four members known for their strong conservative views.
- In his acceptance speech, Xi also touched on the serious problems of corruption and bribery among the leadership and vowed to eradicate it.
- He also emphasised that formalities and bureaucratic delays will be cut out and there will be greater interaction within the party cadres.
- Dealing with turbulence in Tibet will be a key area.
…a possibility that India and China may come closer during Xi’s regime. This could be due to Chinese interests being maintained through increased economic engagement with India as also growing US-India strategic partnership.
- China has achieved a remarkable growth rate of ten percent over the last three decades. However, its investment and export driven and largely manufacturing model which has been sustained by cheap labour has peaked and China will have to look for an alternative model.
- During Xi’s regime, China will seek to open up the service sector and boost domestic consumption in order to sustain its growth rate.
- China will also encourage private enterprise in order to accelerate public sector which is getting stagnant.
- There is unlikely to be a radical shift in the foreign policy. It will continue to be driven by China’s core national interests.
- China’s three key foreign policy issues will be to deal with a growing US involvement in the region, worsening relations with Japan and coming together of Indian Ocean rim countries against China’s aggressive attitude in South China Sea and assertiveness as far as second Island chain are concerned.
Relations with India
India-China relations are likely to determined by the level of economic engagement. At the moment, India is seventh largest export destination of China and the trade has reached a figure of 70 billion dollars. The balance is heavily tilted in favour of China. This issue figured in the talks between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Premier Wen Jiabao on the sidelines of ASEAN Summit.
The Border Question
- India is awaiting the appointment of the successor of Diebingguo, the Chief Border Negotiator who is retiring along with Hu Jintao. However, there is unlikely to be a dramatic shift in the Chinese stance.
- As far as China is concerned, there is unlikely to be any urgency in solving the border issue. China is already in possession of most of its claim area in Ladakh and continues to stake claim on Arunachal Pradesh with a view to keeping India unbalanced and unhinged.
- China will continue India’s strategic encirclement to keep India confined to South Asia.
There is however a possibility that India and China may come closer during Xi’s regime. This could be due to Chinese interests being maintained through increased economic engagement with India as also growing US-India strategic partnership. The new Chinese leadership will therefore be keenly watched in India.