China Chooses New Leaders
In a nutshell… when the horse is headed in the right direction, you don’t pull hard on the reins.
That is basically what both China and the United States decided in their respective elections via two vastly different political processes. Continuation is the order of the day in both countries.
China is so very different, politically, from the United States that a brief review of its internal political structure is useful for outsiders to better understanding events within China.
Chinese Politics for Dummies
China is a monolithic government. It is one party rule from the lowliest neighborhoods to the General Secretary at the top of the political pyramid. It begins with Communist Party membership, which itself is an exclusive political club.
Below lists a general pecking order of increasing political power within China. Membership into the next higher political group requires membership within all the political groups below it.
The Central Military Commission is a notable exception. Its a separate military entity from civilian authority with its own power structure… sorta like the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the United States rules the military from within the Pentagon, but has a civilian Commander-in-chief.
Oversimplified, here is China’s basic power hierarchy bottom to top:
- Communist Party Membership (80 million of 1 billion Chinese)
- Secretariat (the permanent bureaucracy that runs day-to-day government operations)
- National People’s Congress (≈2,987 members that meet every 5 years)
- Central Committee (≈350 members)
- Various high power individuals like China’s five “administrative district” leaders)
- Politburo (22 members)
- Central Military Commission (11 members)
- Standing Committee of the Politburo (now 7 members… was 9)
- General Secretary (1 member – China’s Top Dog)
The important decisions in China are made by the Standing Committee led by the General Secretary. Everyone else is subservient to it and bend to its will.
China is not a democracy. The “electoral” process into China’s highest offices is done in secret and decided by those up the chain of power, not by open elections.
Officially, the National People’s Congress chooses new leaders every five and ten years, but it is just a rubber stamp organization… sorta like the U.S. Congress.
Understanding the fate of Bo Xilai helps outsiders better understand China’s political hierarchy.
Bo Xilai is the central figure in China’s highest level political scandal in decades. His sordid story involves power, greed, corruption and murder.
Before his fall from grace, Mr. Bo was an up-and-coming reformist leader of Chongqing, one of China’s five main geographic “administrative districts”. He was also a member of the Politburo and expected to become the next member of China’s all-powerful Standing Committee today.
A power struggle with his Chief of Police resulted in the chief running off to the administrative district next door to seek asylum at the U.S. Consulate.
Mr. Bo sent security forces outside his jurisdiction and surrounded the Consulate. The police chief spilled the beans about a murder committed by Mr. Bo’s wife to the world through the U.S. Consulate and, with that, Mr. Bo’s fate was sealed.
In the months since then Mr. Bo’s wife has been tried and convicted of murder in a two day trial and Mr. Bo, now jailed, slowly and quietly striped of membership in all his political positions.
Final expulsion from the Communist Party clears the way for Mr. Bo to now be tried (and convicted) of… wellll… getting caught!
China’s New Leadership
Today, London’s Financial Times published this story on China’s newly announced leaders:
“Xi Jinping appointed new Chinese leader“
– Kathrin Hille and Jamil Anderlini, Financial Times, 11/15/2012
Probably the most notable change is that the so-called “Standing Committee” was reduced from 9 to 7 members. The Standing Committee is the epicenter of all power in China.
They make the important decisions. Reducing its size consolidates power into fewer hands.
An indication that China will remain economically conservative is that Wang Qishan, an economic reformer, made it on to the Standing Committee but was named anti-corruption chief instead of given a role in economic policy making.
There you have it… everything you always wanted to know about China’s political structure, but were afraid to ask!