China approaches a defining moment

Of the four Permanent Members of UN Security Council where the top jobs are up for grabs this year, no transition is as shrouded in secrecy and suspicion as China’s upcoming leadership transition. Without even a semblance of popular legitimation, leadership transitions in China can be nasty affairs at the best of times. In current political and economic climate, leadership’s capacity to keep Party and State together is becoming quite stretched. Recently, Bo Xilai, Party Chief of China’s largest city, Chongqing, was publicly ousted in most high-profile political incident since 1989. Most importantly, this transition may become a defining moment, 34 years after Deng Xiaoping became paramount leader of the Chinese Party-State having skilfully manoeuvered his way past Hua Guofeng, Mao’s hand-picked successor. Although Hua was able to restore a modicum of stability and initiate economic modernization during his brief spell in power, he remained too closely linked to the memory of Maoism to be able to lead China into a phase of economic development. Also, he did not have the personal authority of revolutionary veteran Deng, who commanded tremendous respect from the army, the scientific community and economic planners. In next few years, Deng hammered out a model for economic development as well as political stability which largely remains unchanged, and which enabled China to embark on the growth path that has now led it to become the second economy in the world. Economically, Deng’s strategy was based on pragmatism. For starters, Deng legitimized local experiments with market-like incentive mechanisms for agricultural production, phasing out collective agriculture. This led to a boom in food production which liberated millions of hands from the fields. Furthermore, realizing China was far behind even Soviet Union, and certainly behind western economies in nearly all aspects of economic activity, Deng supported scientific research at home, while opening China’s borders to the world. Investors wanting to profit from the enormous pool of cheap and docile Chinese labour were welcome, so was their technology. Millions of Chinese students have gone abroad to study, predominantly in scientific and professional fields, and brought this knowledge back to the motherland. Thousands of books and other scientific materials were imported, translated and made available to Chinese scholars. Politically, Deng’s position was complex. Having seen the horror and devastation of Cultural Revolution up close, Deng was determined to ensure no individual would be able to lead the country into catastrophe again. Ironically, he used his own personal authority to force Party into accepting collective leadership. He did away with strict dogmatism and political correctness reigned during Maoist era, and introduced intra-Party democracy to some extent. He encouraged discussion about issues to come up with resolutions and ideas. At the same time, however, Deng was clear about leading position of Communist Party. His political objective was to consolidate position through sound governance, rather than lead the Party to pluralisation or democratization. Factionalism would not be tolerated, neither would organized dissent from outside the Party. This was, of course, the most clearly demonstrated in 1989, but echoes earlier moves by Deng to counter calls for political reform in early Eighties (…..)



Acerca de ignaciocovelo
Consultor Internacional


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