When the Chinese Communist Party holds its 18th Party Congress this fall, it will usher in a new generation of leaders for the first time in a decade. Particular attention will be paid to the composition of the Politburo Standing Committee (PBSC), the powerful nine-member body that effectively runs the country.The retirement age for senior Chinese leaders of 68 is strictly enforced. As a result, all but two members of the current Politburo Standing Committee are being put out to pasture. The two holdovers, Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang, are near-certainties to stay on the PBSC; Xi is widely expected to assume the presidency and Li the premiership.The other seven spots are up for grabs, and even experienced China watchers are unsure who will fill them. The Sinostand blog runs the ruler through some of the contenders, discussing both their chances of ascending to a coveted committee spot and assigning them an ideological value on a spectrum of +1 to -1.Sinostand explains the system here:
I give Liu Xiaobo a +1 and Mao a -1 to represent China’s political extremes. So an absolute moderate would be 0. I’ve attempted to put the contenders for the PBSC on this chart to indicate their rough ideological leanings. Yes, this is a gross oversimplification and very imperfect. Some leaders are very economically liberal while at the same time politically conservative, which makes it hard to place them on this one-dimensional scale. It is very unscientific but thus is the nature of Chinese politics. Chinese leaders are notoriously secretive and it’s usually a mystery how much individual responsibility they have for a given policy. But I’ve tried to give them incremental ticks to the left or right based on past actions and statements, as well as supposed political allies.
Xi gets a -0.05 (moderate) while Li receives a +0.30 (fairly liberal). For those wondering, the purged Bo Xilai would have received a -0.50.Ultimately, Sinostand believes that the new PBSC will have a slightly more liberal tilt than the previous regime:
In one way or another, the liberals look poised to take greater influence, but remember, that’s “liberal” by Chinese standards. Nobody (not even Wang Yang) is going to want to do anything too quickly. In fact, Xi Jinping and the whole Politburo will probably play it safe for the first year with the “stability first” status quo while they consolidate their power.
Whoever they are, the new leadership team will have their work cut out out for them. The days of double-digit economic growth have disappeared, perhaps for good. Social and political pressures are not dissipating. And on the geopolitical front, Beijing will have to decide how to respond to America’s recent successful initiatives in the region while maintaining good relations with its increasingly jittery neighbors.