Get used to this name, Xi Jinping(pronounced SHEE Chin-Ping).
Last week China’s Communist Party anointed Xi as the next President of China, succeeding Hu Jintao who has overseen a decade of remarkable growth. This change represents a major shift in the leadership of China as a new generation of leaders headed by Xi take over the Politburo Standing Committee who governs the nation, primarily by consensus. Xi, who was said to have been favored by previous Chinese leader Jiang Zemin, has risen to a position of prominence in China partly due to his background as a Princeling, a relative of one of the founders of the Chinese Communist revolution. This process has been quite lengthy and long awaited, here is an interactive and comprehensive look at the transition in China, as well as background on the new leaders of the Standing Committee.
In his speech at the Great Hall of People in Beijing, Xi outlined his vision for the future of China. Signaling a new tone he was blunt, plain-spoken and direct in outlining the issues facing China. Citing the wealth gap and corruption as major obstacles he stated
The party faces many severe challenges, and there are also many pressing problems within the party that need to be resolved, particularly corruption, being divorced from the people, going through formalities and bureaucratism caused by some party officials.
Xi also spoke about the fundamental issues facing ordinary Chinese citizens, stating
Our people… yearn for better education, stable jobs, more satisfactory income, greater social security, improved medical and healthcare,” he said.
Not only is Xi taking over at a turning point in China’s leadership but also as the nation faces a slowing of its economy, tentions with Japan and its neighbors in Southeast Asia, and an increase in friction in its relationship with the United States. Americans, and people around the world, will be paying attention to the new Chinese leadership to see how they will act on the world stage. Unlike the United States and other democracies, where candidates are well known and their policies are outlined, China’s new leadership is relatively ambiguous. No one truly knows their policy stances, where they seek to take the country, and what their philosophy is. It is much more of a wait and see scenario, and with China continuing to grow economically and go through political and geopolitical turbulence this makes for a interesting scenario for the nation and for countries around the world.
Despite their remarkable economic growth and path to being the largest economy in the world, which scares Americans, China faces a number of political challenges. As people quickly join the middle-class, and are connected to the rest of the world and the global economy, they will begin to press for their rights and that will be a fundamental issue the Chinese government will have to face. As protests around the world continue to grow and people demand political rights and freedom, China will not be immune, despite its economic success. At some point people will no longer be willing to stay quiet and acquiesce to the ‘harmonious society’ policy the government has championed for decades. The economy may grow, and people may become rich(er), but without a strong political foundation, Xi, and the new leadership, in China will face their greatest test.