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November 29, 2012

CCS community reflects on the 18th Party Congress

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(via people.com.cn)

We asked, and they responded with great expertise and enthusiasm. Please read on and feel free to comment below.

Victoria Chonn (CCS MA '09), researcher, Lima, Peru
China's leadership transition occurred quite smoothly in spite of the scandals the Party experienced in the previous months. As expected, Xi Jinping was one of the seven members of the new Politburo Standing Committee and was announced as the Secretary General of the CCP. There are many expectations for this new leadership both within and outside China, most of which focus on bringing political and economic reforms to the country. For Latin America, one of the main concerns is China's continued growth. Over the past decade, relations between Latin America and China have strengthened, due mostly to growing economic and commercial ties. While the policies toward the region are not expected to change greatly with this new leadership, there is the growing necessity to diversify the relationship to make it more mutually beneficial. This requires strong leaders, assertive guidelines, and also, domestic stability—which for the Asian country and some countries in Latin America remains a big challenge.

Qingjie Zeng, Doctoral Candidate, Political Science, U-M
The 18th CCP Congress marked the second orderly transition of top Chinese leadership. The first transition of this kind occurred in 2002 when Jiang Zemin passed the position of CCP's general secretary to Hu Jintao. The succession is "orderly" in two senses. First, the convention that every general secretary of CCP will serve only two terms is now well established. Second, the successor was picked by senior leaders well before the transition occurs, providing ample time to groom the heir apparent for the top position. An orderly power transition injects fresh blood into the leadership and alleviates the intensity of power struggle at CCP's top echelon. Indeed, many political scientists have identified orderly transition as a key reason why CCP is still in power.

At the 18th Congress, the outgoing leader, Hu Jintao, went a step further than his predecessor. Unlike Jiang who retained his control of the CCP military committee until 2004, Hu exited from all his formal posts in the party. Hu's "full retirement" is regarded by observers as a major contribution to the establishment of a rule-based political system. It also sent a strong signal against the kind of behind-the-scene influence enjoyed by the octogenarians during Hu's era.

The new top leader, Xi Jinping, is generally well-received in China for his commonsensical and down-to-earth working style. No one expects his team to launch Gorbachev-style political reform in China, but there is widespread hope that his administration will do something to tackle state monopoly in key industries and bureaucratic corruption.

Overall I think the 18th congress is a big success for the CCP. It is held at a time when China's international influence reaches a historical high. There is little doubt that Hu's era will be remembered as the "golden decade" of the Communist Party.

Gang Su, Doctoral Candidate, Bioinformatics, U-M
I think the recent transitions of U.S. and China leaderships signal a new phase of mutual interdependence. As China's economic growth is slowing down while U.S. is looking forward to a new four years of recovery, both nations will need job growth and social-economic stability. I expect to see more bilateral exchanges and collaborations. However, China will inevitably expand its voice in the south-east pacific and clash with the current U.S. influence. How these two powers interact and form a new regional order will be very interesting - there will definitely be some heated moments even hostility, but I hope the two nations, especially the people, will understand the importance of the mutual interdependence and take responsibilities for a promising and mutual-beneficial future.

Yawen Lei, Doctoral Candidate, Political Science, U-M
The 18th Party Congress was a well-planned spectacle engineered by Party elites. Whether engaged in behind-the-scenes power struggles or performing on stage, only Party elites were given the privilege of supposedly voicing the dissatisfaction and aspirations of the Chinese people. As usual, the government tightened its control over the Internet, silencing criticism both online and offline in order to maintain strict control over the spectacle and ensure that it presented the world with the image of a modern and powerful China. Any discontent of the Chinese people was stifled, as this would have negated the Party’s achievement and the image of a rising China.

Yet, contrary to the view of Party elites, the proliferation of critical citizens and critical discourse in China’s public sphere is far from a threat to the country’s progress, but rather an indication of it. Party leaders underestimate their own accomplishment. They have created not only an economic miracle that lifted numerous people out of poverty, but also a growing number of citizens who recognize their rights, respect the rule of law and social order, and are becoming increasingly adept at articulating and analyzing social problems. If Party elites could think beyond their own individual and collective interests, they would realize that Chinese citizens capable of critical thinking and diverse opinions are valuable assets. The progress of Chinese society actually provides fertile conditions for a new political miracle, in which Chinese citizens are empowered to define and enhance their citizenship rights, as well as to plan for their own futures.

Yuen Yuen Ang, Assistant Professor of Political Science, U-M
At the 18th Party Congress, both the departing leader Hu Jintao and new general secretary Xi Jinping highlighted corruption as a problem that the party must tackle. Both are probably alluding to Bo Xilai's scandal. Over the next 5 years, we can expect to see more forceful administrative and anti-corruption reforms that can effectively target petty corruption and forms of corruption that involve "stealing," such as embezzlement and budgetary misappropriations. However, grand corruption at the highest level of transactional forms (e.g. massive bribery) is the product of a vast concentration of power in the hands of a few, heavy government investments, and extensive state intervention in the economy. Combating grand corruption requires a major restructuring of political organization and of the state's role in the economy, both of which are extremely difficult and risky changes to attempt.

Damjan DeNoble, JD/CCS MA student, U-M
The 18th Party Congress will bring with it many changes to China, but the country’s ongoing national health reforms will not be affected.

Since 2009, the start of the current reforms, the rate of China insurance coverage has reached 95%, according to the latest numbers put forth in the March 2012 issue of the Lancet. If one considers that health insurance coverage ten years ago was limited to Party members and city hukou holders, this means that Chinese health planners have managed to provide health coverage for one billion people in less than ten years. It is of course debatable how useful this insurance is for many of those covered, but nevertheless the speed with which the insurance scheme was implemented is a grand achievement.

In the November 17 circular issued by China’s Ministry of Health to coincide with the unveiling of the new 18th Party Congress Leadership, medical reform leaders made clear that the reforms are a national priority. Specifically, maintaining the pace of reform in the insurance system, continuing to strengthen primary care provision in both the urban hospital system and the grassroots health system, and facilitating greater coordination between all providers in the national health care network is viewed as critical to preserving social harmony, the goal emphasized by 18th party leaders. Of particular significance to business interests, the MOH also stated within the November 7th circular, that in order to meet these goals China’s health planners will work to integrate private sector solutions within the public health system.

Coupled with the fact that hospitals were taken off the restricted foreign investment list in 2011, the inclusion of private-sector-based strategies in the MOH circular may lead some analysts to portend a large scale opening of a new China market in private healthcare. Such opportunities have been thus far limited to smaller specialty hospitals working independently (for the most part) of the public healthcare infrastructure, who cater services to high-income Chinese, as well as foreigners with overseas private insurance. While it is tempting to make such predictions due to the healthcare industry’s role in pacing the American economy over the past several decades, it is important for both investors and would be public health scholars to remember that because of China's strong commitment to public provision of healthcare, these private opportunities will more likely have to fit within China's national health plan. In other words, the future of private healthcare during the term of the 18th Party Congress is private healthcare with Chinese characteristics; one much more focused on building a strong social safety net, than on building an industry that will be an economic growth driver.

(CCS blog administrator's note: Everyone is welcome and encouraged to voice their opinion regardless of identity, politics, ideology, religion, agreement or disagreement with other community members, the contributors to the post or CCS staff members - as long as those opinions are respectful and constructively add to the conversation. However, this site does not tolerate direct or indirect attacks, name-calling or insults, nor does it tolerate intentional attempts to derail, hijack, troll or bait others into an emotional response. These types of comments will be removed from the site where warranted.)

Posted by zzhu at November 29, 2012 11:08 PM


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