By B. Raman
The 18th Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) is all set to meet at Beijing from November 8, 2012. Hu Jintao will be handing over as the General Secretary of the Party to Xi Jinping at the Congress and a new Standing Committee of the Politbureau, a new Politbureau and a new Central Committee will be elected at the Congress. They will be in office till the 19th Congress in 2017. Normally, a new Central Military Commission (CMC) of the Party should also be elected at the Congress.
Normally, the members of the new party organs are chosen through consensus by the outgoing Central Committee and formally elected by the new Congress. The outgoing party organs, which assumed office at the 17th Congress in 2007, are presently meeting in Beijing to reach a consensus on the composition of the new party organs to be formally elected next week and to approve the report on the work done by the outgoing organs for submission to the 18th Congress.
Hu Jintao as the outgoing General Secretary and Xi Jinping as his successor should be playing the leading role in finalising the composition of the new party organs. Speculation from Beijing indicates that Jiang Zemin, a strong personality from Shanghai, who was the predecessor of Hu as the Party Secretary and as the Chairman of the Party CMC and who still wields considerable influence in the party circles in Shanghai, has been playing an important role in the finalisation of the composition of the new party organs and that under his influence, a neo conservative political leadership, which wants to go slow on political reforms, seems to be well-poised to occupy key positions under Xi.
The importance of political reforms to sustain the economic reforms, which was the keynote of the policies advocated by Prime Minister Wen Jiabao, has been given less importance in the deliberations preceding the new Party Congress. Improving people’s livelihood, incremental political reforms and innovative democracy are the keynotes of the new policy being advocated.
Any idea of a multi-party democracy is firmly rejected. The firm leadership of the Communist party, the modernisation of the functioning of the party and the improvement of inner party democracy to provide for greater transparency in its functioning, better choice for the party cadres in the election of the party functionaries and greater accountability of the functionaries to the cadres and the people are now stressed as the new features of innovative democracy.
The new party functionaries, who are expected to take over under XI, are projected in the speculation as advocates of a play safe policy in respect of political reforms. Economic and political stability and not political experimentation will be their objective.
In an article published on November 3,2012 , the “People’s Daily”, the party daily, said: “The social unrest caused by Russia’s “shock therapy,” Latin America’s “radical reform,” or certain African countries’ copying of the U.S. political system proves that slavish imitation of Western democracy will lead to turmoil. Democracy takes various forms according to different national condition, and good democracy should first suit a country’s national conditions. China has attached great importance to the people’s livelihood and incremental reform, and pursued suitable democracy through gradual innovation in a pragmatic manner. Democracy is not only a system of government, but also a way of life which meets people’s needs. Admittedly, as public awareness of the rights to know and participate as well as the rule of law increases, democracy in China has not reached the level many people expect. However, the country is making steady progress in improving its democracy.”
Thus, the new party leadership, which will be taking over next week, is trying to reduce expectations of a Chinese spring or a brave new world of Chinese democracy. This is not the time for political experimentation. That is the message that has been coming out from Beijing.