Never again, after this weeks party congress, will Chinas ruling
Communist Party select its top members through the secretive,
confusing, and mistrustful conversations in smoky back rooms that
have led to such disarray this year.
That is the view of Chinese analysts familiar with the inner
workings of the party, who say that as proliferating interest groups
complicate leadership transitions, party members are increasingly
angry at being left out of the leadership selection process.
Just days before the 18th Party Congress opens on Thursday at the
Great Hall of the People on Tiananmen Square, the most important
political meeting for a decade, varied rumors continue to swirl over
just who will be named to the Communist Partys top policymaking
body, the Politburo Standing Committee. It is not even certain how
many members the body will have.
The unprecedented confusion indicates that the highly chaotic,
black box negotiating process carries high costs, is highly
uncertain, and is very violent, says Wu Qiang, who teaches politics
at Beijings Tsinghua University. They cannot go on like this.
There was a time when outgoing Chinese leaders were strong enough
to name their successors, and that was an end to any discussion. Mao
Zedong named the man who took over after his death, and later,
Supreme leader Deng Xiaoping had the authority to choose not only
his own successor, but the man who succeeded that successor the now-
outgoing General Secretary Hu Jintao.
In todays China, however, where the Standing Committee has come
to rule mainly by consensus, no individual has such power.
Deng was the last one with absolute legitimacy because of his
role in the revolution, says Michel Bonnin, a China expert at the
French School for Advanced Social Science Studies. Today, there is
no one like him.
Behind closed doors
But the party has not developed any other convincing manner of
choosing leaders and endowing them with legitimacy. There is no
voting, and no rule-based way of measuring popular opinion in the
party, points out Zhang Jian, a politics professor at Peking
University. If you dont have a strongman or democracy, you are in a
mess. Anybody can compete.
Xi Jinping, almost certain to take the top job from Mr. Hu at the
end of the weeklong congress, emerged from negotiations among rival
factions five years ago, but has little personal authority yet. Only
one other man is staying on the Standing Committee, Li Keqiang,
expected to be named premier.
Battles for the remaining five or seven places are still said
to be raging behind closed doors, complicated by the fallout from
the unprecedented public challenge to the party leadership that Bo
Xilai mounted before he was brought down and expelled from the
party. He is now awaiting trial, accused of corruption and
involvement in a murder for which his wife is already serving a jail
But Mr. Bos fate, and the fate of those close to him, is not the
only complicating factor this year, says Wang Zhengxu, deputy
director of the China Policy Institute at Nottingham University in
There is a much more diverse range of regional and policy
preferences at stake, as different economic and social interest
groups fight for representation at the partys highest levels, says
Professor Wang. …