Viewpoint: The powerful factions among China's rulers

China's political elite is dominated by two factions. But once the new leaders are unveiled, who will have the upper hand, and how will competing factions balance power? As part of a series on challenges for China's new leaders, political analyst Cheng Li says the country's future could be decided by a tussle at the top.

Of all the concerns about the forthcoming political succession in China, none may ultimately prove as important as whether or not the factional balance of power will be maintained.
China is now confronting widespread social unrest, slowing economic growth, increasing divisions within domestic public opinion on the issue of the country's political trajectory and rampant official corruption as revealed by the Bo Xilai scandal.
Any further signs of elite disunity or upsets in the factional balance of power within the top leadership could be overwhelmingly detrimental in terms of the continued rule of the Communist Party.
 That is why the composition of the new Politburo Standing Committee (PSC), the supreme decision-making body in China, is critically important.
What will be the status of the competing factions in that committee? Will the existing system of collective leadership in China continue - or is it headed towards failure?
Populists vs princelings China is a one-party state in which the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) monopolises power. The party leadership, however, is not a monolithic group. Its members do not all share the same ideology, political association, socio-economic background, or policy preferences.
In fact, two main political factions or coalitions within the CCP leadership are currently competing for power, influence and control over policy initiatives. This bifurcation has created within China's one-party polity something approximating a mechanism of checks and balances in the decision-making process.
This mechanism, of course, is not the kind of institutionalised system of checks and balances that operates between the executive, legislative and judicial branches in a democratic system.
But this new structure - sometimes referred to in China as "one party, two coalitions" - does represent a major departure from the "all-powerful strongman" model that was characteristic of politics in the Mao and Deng eras.
 One of the two intra-party groups in China is the "populist coalition", which is led by President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao. The other is the "elitist coalition", which emerged in the Jiang Zemin era and used to be headed by Jiang but is currently led by both Wu Bangguo, chairman of the national legislature, and Jia Qinglin, head of a national political advisory body.
These four individuals - Mr Hu, Mr Wu, Mr Wen and Mr Jia - are currently China's top leaders. These two political camps share the seats in the top leadership organisations in a way as to reach a near-perfect balance.
The nine-member PSC, for example, has - at least prior to this 2012 Party Congress - maintained a four-to-five split, with four seats for the populist coalition and five going to the elitist coalition.

Start Quote

Controversy concerning personnel appointments, especially when it comes to membership in the Politburo and Politburo Standing Committee, could become viciously contentious, leading factional infighting to spiral out of control.”
Cheng Li
Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang, who will likely take over the top two posts at the 2012 Party Congress, each represent one of these two coalitions.


Leave A Comment:

Powered by Blogger.
Design by