För symmetrins skull är det bäst att ta med FTs syn på Kinavalet
1. INGEN vet vad som händer i Kinas val
2. Kongressen består av 2270 viktiga personer som utser 370 ännu viktigare som i sin tur utser två dussin jätteviktiga som sen utser 7-9 superviktiga personer; The Politburo Standing Committee (PSC)
3. I stort sett håller FT med om det jag skrev häromdagen, dvs att det blir konservativa krafter som dominerar PSC istället för reformvänliga
The REALLY easy bluffer's guide to China's regime change is: wave your hands airily (or email/IM equivalent) and declare that nobody knows. Because, nobody really does (at least, no-one who will tell you).
So, as a service to our loyal readers, we've attempted to compile a guide to some of the best guides to the incredibly opaque world of Chinese politics ahead of the 18th National Congress that starts in Beijing tomorrow.
Let's start with the Politburo Standing Committee.
The New York Times describes the PSC vividly thus:
The committee is a group of aging men with dyed hair and dark suits who make all major decisions about the economy, foreign policy and other issues. Their meetings are not publicized in the state news media. The party chief often presides, but they operate by consensus, which means decisions are generally made only when the members reach agreement.
They also must solicit the input of retired members, now more than a dozen, who at times exert considerable influence, most of all Mr. Hu’s 86-year-old predecessor, Jiang Zemin. Mr. Jiang and other elders are deeply engaged in the backstage negotiations to appoint the next generation of leaders.
Next, the Congress itself.
Reuters has put together one of its wonderful factboxes explaining some of the, well, facts about the 18th National Congress:
- The 18th Congress is a gathering of China's most powerful people: incumbent state leaders, cabinet ministers, top military generals, provincial party chiefs and governors, mayors of major cities as well as managers of large state-owned enterprises and state bankers.
- A total of 2,270 delegates were selected to attend this year's congress.
- About 30 percent of the delegates were carefully selected by regional officials as "grassroots" role models from all walks of life, including farmers, workers, teachers, doctors and scientists.
What happens therein:
- The five-yearly congress elects about 370 full and alternate members of the party's elite Central Committee in a session lasting about one week, drawing from a pre-selected pool of candidates expected to be only slightly larger than 370.
[Yes, that's right... 370 are 'elected' from a pool of slightly more than 370.]
- The new Central Committee's first session, held the day after the congress ends, then selects some two dozen members of the decision-making Politburo, again drawing from a list of candidates already selected by the party's leadership over months of political jockeying.
- The new Politburo Standing Committee, the party's top echelon of power which currently has nine members, will then be unveiled after the one-day Central Committee plenum ends. It is widely expected to be shrunk to seven, facilitating decision-making needed to push through key reforms.
Got that? The day after the Congress ends, the Politburo is selected (or, announced). And the day after that, the PSC is announced.
The thing is, we don't know exactly when the Congress ends -- in fact, the start date was only quite recently confirmed (many had expected it to be held in late October). The Congress itself is expected to be about a week long, so the PSC composition will probably be known around November 15.
Back to Reuters. Some other stuff happens during the Congress itself:
- A series of other appointments will also be made over the congress period, and in some cases before it. These include provincial party chiefs and governors and heads of some state-owned enterprises.
- Vice President Xi Jinping is set to take over as party general secretary from President Hu Jintao at the end of the congress. Xi then takes over as head of state in March at the annual full meeting of parliament.
So it's a transition of power at many levels and in many areas.
Including -- perhaps -- the military:
One uncertainty is whether Hu will also give up his job as military chief. His predecessor, Jiang Zemin, stayed on in that role for two years after stepping down as party chief.
Which forces will gain power?
There have been numerous stories in both the English and Chinese-language media claiming to have the goods on the composition of the PSC. Interestingly, most are careful to note that things could still change.
With the proviso that we have NO idea, here are a few of our favourites:
The "reformers" or the status quo? A theme in several reports out of China has been that former president Jiang Zemin has been wielding significant power behind the scenes -- at the expense of current president Hu Jintao and his proteges. At the same time there are reports that some reform-minded contenders have seen their chances lessened of late.
Here's an FT profile of one of the reformers, Wang Qishan, who was thought to be a shoo-in for the PSC until quite recently:
Long seen as a pro-market reformer, Mr Wang has given tantalising hints that he might also push for political reforms with a series of comments in recent months about the importance of the rule of law.
It's now seen by some observers as possible that Wang won't get a powerful role at all:
Some observers believe he might be sidelined as head of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Congress, a toothless advisory body.
Another rumour – and one that would be much more to Mr Wang’s liking – is that he might be named chairman of the National People’s Congress, the country’s parliament. That post technically ranks second in the Communist party hierarchy, but the parliament is today seen as little more than a rubber-stamp body.
This report from the South China Morning Post says other reformers may also be out of the running:
However, the sources said that the Politburo Standing Committee's likeliest line-up was now packed with conservatives including vice-premier and Chongqing party chief Zhang Dejiang, 65, propaganda chief Liu Yunshan, 65, Shanghai party boss Yu Zhengsheng, 67, and Tianjin party chief Zhang Gaoli, 65.
They said the biggest surprise was the omission of two reform-minded protégés of party general secretary Hu Jintao - party organisation department head Li Yuanchao, who turns 62 this month, and Guangdong party chief Wang Yang, 57 - mainly due to their relative youth and opposition from conservative party elders, including former premier Li Peng.
You'll have heard about the Bo Xilai/Gu Kailai scandal which first came to world attention in February -- if not, read Jamil Anderlini's FT Magazine story or his ebook. But how's it relevant to the leadership transition? Bo was expected to ascend to the PSC at this Congress, so the political ramifications were high in this account of murder, corruption and spying. Bo's political style -- populist anti-corruption crackdowns and encouraging the singing of revolutionary songs -- sat uncomfortably with some elements of the Chinese Communisty Party, which isn't keen on personality cults these days.
As Jamil wrote back in July, the handling of Bo and Gu's cases was a delicate matter coming just before the Congress, although some felt his absence had a net benefit:
Some analysts are even saying that without Bo’s destabilising presence, a more harmonious and effective leadership will emerge.
“Bo and his ambition were seen as the most dangerous force in Chinese politics and people inside the party always compared him to Hitler,” said one senior Chongqing official who worked closely with Bo. “He was a Marxist-Leninist who opposed western liberal democracy, but the irony is that if the Chinese people were allowed to vote, he probably would have been elected president.”