Xi Jinping will become China’s new Communist Party leader, taking on the role of national president in March. The previous Chinese administration of General Secretary Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao became known for “unprecedented scandals and rising public cynicism.” The new leadership team will be led by their respective deputies, Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang.
“A lot of Chinese think of political development in terms of the dynastic cycle,” said Feng Chongyi, a political scientist at the University of Technology Sydney, according to The Sydney Morning Herald. Dr. Feng ceased paying his Communist Party membership fees but no one has moved to kick him out. “The Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang leadership is the last opportunity for the Party to start a transition to constitutional democracy to break away from the dynastic cycle.”
Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang will head the Politburo Standing Committee, a group that effectively rules all of China. Both men are in their 50s, a decade younger than the Committee’s newest five members, and have reputations of being cautious reformers. But these two will likely have a fight on their hands since their elders are seen as wary of change.
“This is a very bad lineup and certainly dampens any hope of political reform,” says Zhang Jian, a professor of politics at Peking University. “I don’t expect much in the way of change from these men.”
Xi Jinping is married to singer Peng Liyuan, who was arguably more well known throughout China before her husband was promoted to the Politburo Standing Committee. Xi was the son of party elite who fell into disfavor during the Cultural Revolution. He spent years in poverty before studying chemical engineering at Tsinghua University in Beijing. Xi Jinping also has a degree in Marxist theory and a doctorate in law.
What what are we to make of this new Chinese leader? According to The Christian Science Monitor, the new Chinese leader makes no apologies for the problems rife within his party. In speeches Xi Jinping has accused others of “corruption, being divorced from the people, going through formalities, and bureaucratism.” Xi Jinping is well known for his low-key, sometimes bluff political style. He has openly complained of Communist Party officials’ speeches and literature being clogged with party jargon instead of plain speaking.
“I believe Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang have strong reform genes in their blood, and they will not be constrained by former leaders’ conservatism,” says Chen Ziming, a Beijing-based political analyst. Chen was was jailed for several years for his role in the 1989 Tiananmen square uprising. “But they are surrounded by old men who do not meet peoples’ demands for more democracy or more reform.”
Reuters provides some more insight into how Xi Jinping thinks about the world at large:
“In the midst of international financial turmoil, China was still able to solve the problem of feeding its 1.3 billion people, and that was already our greatest contribution to humankind,” Xi Jinping said to a crowd in Mexico. These comments drew applause from Chinese Internet users. “Some foreigners with full bellies and nothing better to do engage in finger-pointing at us. First, China does not export revolution; second, it does not export famine and poverty; and third, it does not mess around with you. So what else is there to say?”
Xi Jinping may indicate a significant change in China’s direction. What do you think about China’s future in the world?