The death of China's paramount leader, Deng Xiaoping, opens the way for bureaucratic infighting that could paralyze important policy decisions affecting 1.2 billion Chinese - and all who deal with them, analysts said Wednesday.
But Deng's passing isn't expected to alter China's basic trajectory as the world's fastest-growing economic powerhouse whose mounting commercial might is mirrored in its rising political and military clout.
Together, those trends have been shifting the balance of global power steadily toward China for a decade, a movement analysts believe will stay more or less on track in the wake of Deng's death. "They're going to be a major power - economically, politically and militarily - into the next century," said former assistant secretary of state Winston Lord, who served as President Bill Clinton's point man on China for the past four years. "The question is whether they're going to be a cooperative power or a disruptive one." Deng's departure augurs no immediate change in existing U.S. policy, which aims to engage China across a broad slate of issues ranging from trade and human rights to drug trafficking and nuclear weapons controls. China is expected to continue its blistering 9 percent annual economic growth rate. American corporations will keep betting their futures heavily on China, where U.S. and other foreign companies have invested more than $115 billion to try to tap China's vast consumer and labor markets. "For many companies, China is now an integral part of their long-term perceptions of their global competitiveness," said Robert Kapp, executive director of the U.S.-China Business Council, a Washington trade group. "Most American companies that have already gone, or desire to go, into China are likely to remain there." Even so, a period of flux and uncertainty lies ahead as a new generation of leaders grapples with the enormous challenges, domestic and foreign, China faces as it rises to take its place on the global stage alongside a small handful of nations poised to shape the 21st century. "It's a very uncertain path, I think," said China scholar Jonathan Spence, a Yale University professor. The death of Deng, the last leader tied personally to the epic national trauma that forged the People's Republic of China in 1949, "marks a decisive break with the generation who were in on the revolution from the beginning," Spence said. Politically "it throws things open," Spence said. "There will be fantastically tense bureaucratic infighting" that could complicate efforts to solve problems ranging from China's looming banking crisis to its edgy relationship with Taiwan, he said. State industries are dying, crime is skyrocketing, the gap between rich and poor is growing. More than 100 million rural laborers are unemployed, and many are flooding into cities looking for work. …