Conservative tinge in new China leadership: analysts
- Published: 15/11/2012 at 05:47 PM
- Online news:
China's Xi Jinping hinted at a more open style Thursday as he took the reins of the Communist Party, but conservatives on his leadership team could limit his scope for reform, analysts said.
Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping emerges as the head of the newly reshuffled seven-member Communist Party of China Politburo Standing Committee, the nation's top decision-making body, at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on November 15. Xi hinted at a more open style as he took the reins of the Communist Party, but conservatives on his team could limit his scope for reform, analysts said.
In a speech that introduced China's new leader to his country and the world, Xi indicated a desire to improve relations with the international community which has grown concerned by Beijing's growing economic and military clout.
"China needs to learn more about the world and the world needs to learn more about China," he said, looking relaxed and confident after emerging at the helm of a seven-man Politburo Standing Committee (PSC), the nation's top decision-making body.
Xi tightened his grip on the levers of power by taking over as chairman of the Central Military Commission from outgoing leader Hu Jintao, whose own predecessor Jiang Zemin held on to the influential post for two extra years.
The PSC has been slimmed down from nine members under Hu, which could ease logjams in the consensus-driven world of the party's top echelons.
But many of its members are seen as traditionalists, despite growing calls for action on corruption, enforcement of the rule of law, and an overhaul of China's economic model as growth stutters.
China's neighbours Japan and South Korea are also eyeing the leadership transition closely for any sign that they can reset a bitter territorial dispute over East China Sea islands.
But observers said Thursday that any change of tone, or action on reform issues, will be put to one side while he works to shore up his power base.
"The line-up reflects considerable conservatism," said Joseph Cheng, a political analyst at City University of Hong Kong.
The policy preferences of Xi and other key figures remains unclear, and Orville Schell, director of the Centre on US-China Relations at the Asia Society in New York, said the handover had been "the most opaque of processes".
"The party still seems to have very little idea about how to write the next chapter of reform, it evinces a consensus of extreme caution," he added.
Xi himself is seen as a compromise figure, acceptable to both former president Jiang and Hu, although closer to the pro-business "Shanghai Gang" faction that has Jiang as its figurehead.
Hu came up through the Communist Youth League, as did many of his allies, who include the new number two Li Keqiang. They are seen as favouring a greater state role in the economy, and emphasise fairer distribution as well as economic growth.
To what extent the Hu camp has managed to place its people in the wider party hierarchy remains unclear.
But two key figures seen as favouring some level of reform, Guangdong province party chief Wang Yang and Li Yuanchao, head of the apparatus that controls party personnel appointments, both missed out on slots in the elite PSC.
However Meng Jianzhu, minister of public security, who has a hardline reputation after overseeing harsh crackdowns on restive minority areas, was also left off the list.
Jean-Pierre Cabestan, of Hong Kong Baptist University, said: "It is a bit of a Jiang Zemin clique. Hu Jintao has lost a lot of influence.
"Everything will depend on Xi Jinping and whether he exercises leadership. Will he be someone who can introduce reforms? I'm still very sceptical."
In his speech -- a marked departure from the dry, jargon-laden lectures of his predecessor Hu Jintao -- Xi spoke of the people's desires for better education and health care, more stable jobs and a better environment,
"There was a lot of praise for the Chinese people and also an admission of the seriousness of corruption as a problem," said Cheng. "A new leader must establish his appeal to the people."
Pu Xingzu, politics professor at Fudan University in Shanghai, said its style and content indicated that the leadership would seek to be "low-key, practical, close to the people".
"It was short. It was practical -- not really high-sounding with empty words or 'officialese'. Third, it was more about the people and the people's livelihood."
But Chinese political observer Bo Zhiyue of the National University of Singapore cast doubt on the prospects for change.
"I dont think we can name individuals as reformers or conservatives, in China if the environment is conservative then everyone is a conservative, and if the environment is reformist then everyone is a reformist.
"There has been no shift in the last 10 years, and we can't now expect anything different. There is not going to be substantial reform."
About the author
- Writer: AFP
Position: News agency