July 1, 2011 marks the 20th Anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party in China. It will also mark a change of guard in the country’s leadership that would bring about major political and economic reforms particularly in Sino-American relationship.
As they prepare to retire, or semi-retire, in 2012, China’s leaders are in no mood for risk. They would like to see out their terms with country’s stimulus-powered economic gallop settling back into a risk, low-inflation trot. They will try to leave difficult decisions about economic and political reforms to their successors. But a smooth transfer of power is by no means assured. The coming year will be trying one.
The 90th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party on July 1st 2011 will encourage dissidents and party liberals to raise difficult questions about the party’s longstanding and unfulfilled promises to make the country more democratic. President Hu Jintao will have no desire to spend his remaining time in office taking up this challenge, even though liberals will insist that further delay could be even more dangerous.
He is all but certain (though not constitutionally required) to step down as party chief in late 2012, and has no choice but to step down as president in March 2013. He will stay on as supreme military Commander for a year or two after that, but will probably keep out of day-to-day decision making.
Mr. Hun and the prime minister, Wen Jiabao (pictured above), who will also quit the Politburo’s standing committee in 2012 and must give up the premiership in 2013, are more risk-averse than their predecessors were a decade ago when China was last heading toward a sweeping leadership change. On December 11th 2011 China will celebrate ten years of membership of the World Trade Organization (WTO).
The prime minister at the time, Zhu Rongji (supported by President Jiang Zemin), pushed aggressively for two accession despite strong reservations within powerful bureaucraticies that feared native industries would be overwhelmed by foreign competition. Foreign business leaders complain that Mr. Hu and Mr. Wen have been encouraging greater protectionism, not prepare to hand over.
Their concerns will not be allayed by a new five-year economic plan which will be adopted by China’s rubber-stamps parliamentary in March. The document will stress a fresh economic-growth model that is less dependent on exports (and energy-intensive industry) and more on domestic consumption. Its targets for reducing carbon emissions will help boost Chinma’s standing in climate-change negotiations. But foreign owners of green technologies will be disappointed by the plan’s call, like the previous one’s, for “indigenous innovation”. Foreign business says this in effect means giving preference to domestic firms.
Mr. Hu will try to ease American worries about access to the Chinese market during a visit to Washington early in 2011. He was last there in April 2010, but this will be his first trip during President Obama’s presidency with full state honours. For all China’s misgivings about Americans power, Mr. Hu will do his best not to let them show. Chinese international standing to the public at home.
Mr. Obama will similarly seek to avoid sharp exchange over issues that worry Americans, such as the value of China’s currency and China’s military ambitions (worries that will be fulled in 2011 by China ousting America from a position it has held for 10 years as the world biggest manufacturer). High level military dialogue between China and America, which China suspended in January 2010 because of American arms sales to Taiwan, will probably be resumed in the coming months. It will, however, remain frostily.
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