Comparative Politics Foreign Policy Political Parties

19th National Congress of the CPC: Xi Jinping Firmly in Charge

Xi Jinping is officially China’s strongest leader in decades. The Communist Party of China’s Politburo Standing Committee (PBSC) was unveiled at the end of the 19th National Congress of the CPC in Beijing yesterday with Xi Jinping reelected General Secretary for a second term. The 7-member PBSC includes besides Xi and his Premier Li Keqiang, at least four of Xi’s close allies in key positions. Also, in a departure from Party norms it offers no choice of potential successors to take over from Xi in 2022 when again according to norms, he is supposed to step down from power.

This composition of the PBSC in favour of Xi is the culmination of a series of steps he has taken over the past five years, foremost of which was a popular and far-reaching anti-corruption campaign that netted hundreds of senior Party and military officials including a potential rival and a former PBSC member, no less.

Foreign Policy Political Parties War and Conflict

Foreign Policy under China’s New Leaders: What India can Expect

(original version in English follows below Hindi text)

चीन में नेतृत्व परिवर्तन की एक बड़ी कवायद पूरी हो चुकी है। कुछ दिनों पहले 18वीं नेशनल कांग्रेस में शी जिनपिंग को चीनी कम्युनिस्ट पार्टी का महासचिव बना दिया गया। अब तक यह कमान हू जिंताओ की पास थी। शी ने सेंट्र्ल मिलिट्री कमीशन (सीएमसी) के चेयरमैन का भी पद संभाल लिया है। यह एक अहम पद है और इसके जरिये वह चीन की पीपुल्स लिबरेशन आर्मी के प्रभारी हो गए हैं। इसके साथ ही शी तीसरे अहम पद के तौर पर मार्च, 2013 में राष्ट्रपति का भी पद संभाल लेंगे।

अब सवाल यह है कि नए नेतृत्व के तहत चीन की विदेश नीति कैसी होगी?

Comparative Politics Political Parties Uncategorized

New Leadership in China: Quo Vadis Political Reform?

Xi Jinping has, as expected, taken over as the new General Secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) at its 18th National Congress.  The new Politburo Standing Committee (PBSC) also includes Li Keqiang (like Xi, a member of the previous PBSC), Zhang Dejiang, Yu Zhengsheng, Liu Yunshan, Wang Qishan, and Zhang Gaoli.

Representing the fifth-generation of China’s communist leaders after Mao Zedong, Deng Xiaoping, Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao, Xi and his team have some onerous tasks to gear up to. While the rest of the world, including India, can often focus only on China’s increasing global economic imprint and its rapid military modernization, for China’s leaders themselves the most important concerns have always been domestic ones. And of these, none are as important as the ones about maintaining social stability and the necessity of political reform.

The new PBSC is widely perceived by Western and Chinese observers as being short of genuine political reformers. Further, quite a few on the new PBSC – including Xi himself – have depended on their identity as members of elite communist families to rise to their current posts. In this sense, there is much similarity with the Indian political scene. The cabinet reshuffle by the Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh last month for example, had several young representatives of India’s own elite political families climbing into more senior positions.

Political Parties Uncategorized

Post-China’s 18th Party Congress: Socioeconomic Challenges Paramount

(original version in English follows below Malayalam text)

ദശാബ്ദത്തിലൊരിക്കല്‍ നടക്കുന്ന നേതൃമാറ്റം പൂര്‍ത്തീകരിച്ച് ചൈനീസ് കമ്യൂണിസ്റ്റ്പാര്‍ട്ടി (സി.പി.സി.)യുടെ 18-ാം കോണ്‍ഗ്രസ് ഈയിടെ ബെയ്ജിങ്ങില്‍ സമാപിച്ചല്ലോ. ഹു ജിന്താവോയ്ക്കുകീഴില്‍ പ്രവര്‍ത്തിച്ച നാലാംതലമുറ നേതൃത്വം ഷി ജിന്‍പിങ്ങിനുപിന്നില്‍ അണിനിരക്കുന്ന അഞ്ചാംതലമുറയ്ക്ക് ചുമതല കൈമാറി. ചൈനയുടെ രാഷ്ട്രീയവും സാമ്പത്തികവും സൈനികവുമായ വളര്‍ച്ചയെ ലോകം ആരാധനയോടെയോ അങ്കലാപ്പോടെയോ നോക്കിക്കാണുമ്പോഴും രാജ്യം നേരിടുന്ന നിരവധി ആഭ്യന്തര വെല്ലുവിളികളിലാണ് സി.പി.സി.യുടെ 18-ാം കോണ്‍ഗ്രസ് ശ്രദ്ധയൂന്നിയത്.

Comparative Politics Political Parties

China in 2011: Through the Indian Looking Glass

Originally published: Jabin T. Jacob, “We are not that different, you and I,” DNA, 27 December 2011, p. 12.

With the exception of the 1962 conflict almost everything else about China is seen and understood in India through Western eyes. But, isn’t China, like India, a country of over a billion people? Why then suppose that anybody could understand the Chinese and their problems better than we Indians could? Who but Indians can really grasp the incredible complexities and myriad problems of a billion people living under one flag?

As Shakespeare’s Shylock might have continued asking, does China not have corruption and police brutality, unemployment and inflation, farmers committing suicide and migrant workers shivering in the cold? Does China not have a weak government and coalition politics, ethnic conflict and environmental protests?

“It does?”, you ask. Yes, it does.

Comparative Politics Political Parties

Grand Old Parties: The Chinese Communist Party and the Congress (I)

The Communist Party of China (CPC) celebrated the 90th anniversary of its founding in July this year. From being unambiguously communist in ideology and a party of the masses, the CPC today is an elitist organization that has under its canopy competing factions with differing economic philosophies united only by a common desire to preserve the Party in power.

To take a China-India comparison, one might ask – is the CPC evolving into the equivalent of India’s Congress (I)?

Comparative Politics Foreign Policy Political Parties

Leadership Change in China and Implications for India

Originally published: 7 November 2007

The 17th Party Congress of the Communist Party of China that took place in October was notable for the beginning of the transition to the so-called fifth generation of China’s leaders. It is important to analyze these leadership changes both for what they reveal about the Chinese domestic political system and for their possible impact on China’s external relations.


First, continuing in the manner by which Hu acceded to power, there is no particular leader of the fifth generation chosen as the “core.” Like Hu, the new leader will likely only be primus inter pares. However, unlike in the case of Hu, who first entered the CPC Politbureau’s Standing Committee (PBSC) as the only member of the fourth generation of leaders, this PBSC has two members of the fifth generation Li Keqiang and Xi Jinping. There has been talk that given Xi stands senior to Li in the PBSC, the former is the likely successor to Hu. It has however, to be noted that it was Li who was the first to become a full member of the CPC’s Central Committee in 1992, with Xi following only in 1997. The choice of who the next General Secretary is therefore not as clear-cut as it was in the case of Hu.


Leaving aside the question of seniority, it appears that given their respective backgrounds Li and Xi seem to fit neatly into the possibility of succeeding Hu and Wen Jiabao respectively. Li has served in senior positions in the agriculturally important province of Henan and in China’s most industrially significant province of Liaoning while Xi has only served in the wealthy coastal provinces of Fujian, Zhejiang and Shanghai. The major reason for Li’s ascent has been his Communist Youth League (CYL) connection with Hu but Xi, in addition to earning his spurs as an economic reformer is also a taizi – one of the princelings, as children of Party elders are known – and also considered to be more popular and successful than Li.


While this uncertainty, would in another era, be considered destabilizing, the CPC by choosing two members of the fifth generation of leaders, who could be potential successors to Hu Jintao, has left open the possibility of each candidate try to win political legitimacy for himself before 2012 when the next Congress takes place. This method also gels with the CPC’s claims of seeking increased “inner-Party democracy” and “consultative democracy.”


Second, for the first time, all members in the PBSC, except Wen Jiabao, have experience as Party Secretaries in the provinces. This indicates the increasing weight of the provinces at Beijing and of the importance of a career in the provinces for promotions to the highest leadership positions in China. The dynamics of centre-province relations – China is a far more federal entity than is commonly acknowledged – and their impact on China’s internal politics and increasingly, its external policies, are issues that are still little understood by outside observers. It will therefore be increasingly necessary for countries, and especially China’s neighbours, to tailor their foreign policies towards China, not just in terms of dealing with a centre at Beijing but also to reorient themselves to acknowledge China’s various provincial power centres.


Third, the two other new faces inducted into the PBSC, besides Li and Xi, namely He Guoqiang and Zhou Yongkang have spent significant lengths of time in departments and ministries related to China’s petroleum industry, especially Zhou, who is a former head of the China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC). This point perhaps to the new and growing power of China’s top state-owned enterprises (SOEs), and in particular, the national oil companies (NOCs). This is another indication, if it were needed, that China will continue to emphasize public ownership of key sectors of the economy and that energy security will continue to be a top concern with the Chinese leadership in the coming years.


For India, the manner of leadership change and the background of the new leaders in its largest neighbour should be matters of close study. On the foreign policy front, there are two aspects India should pay attention to. One, India’s China policy should take note of the rising power of China’s provinces and pay renewed attention to sub-regional projects such as the Kunming Initiative, for example. New Delhi should also be broad-basing its China involvement and actively encourage closer ties between its states and China’s provinces. Equally significant for India is the fact that the Hu Jintao years have seen increased attention being paid to China’s interior provinces. This attention is only likely to intensify and could have important implications for the outcome of the boundary talks between India and China.


Two, at a much broader level, given the political instability and the ‘difficulties’ of Western-style multi-party democracy in the rest of South Asia, India must seriously consider whether, the Chinese one-party model might not increasingly come to be seen as an alternative and whether India needs to do more as a role model for multi-party democracy in the region.

Original Article: “Leadership Change in China and Implications for India,” IPCS Article No. 2411, 7 November 2007.