China Leadership Monitor

China Leadership Monitor
Friday, March 14, 2014

Spring 2014: Issue 43

Chinese Views and Commentary on the East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone

by Michael D. Swainevia China Leadership Monitor
Friday, March 14, 2014

China’s establishment of the East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone has incited strong criticisms and increased regional tensions. Both authoritative and non-authoritative sources argue consistently and often emphatically that the zone is intended to improve safety and stability and is not directed at any particular country or target. Yet the vague language used to describe the zone, as well as the extensive and often hostile rhetoric toward Japan, suggests that such assertions are incorrect and disingenuous at best. While China has every right to set up an ADIZ, its failure to reassure other nations or clearly define the enforcement and intended impact of the zone has undermined any purported stabilizing intentions and damaged China’s larger strategic interests.

From Generation to Generation: Advancing Cross-Strait Relations

by Alan D. Rombergvia China Leadership Monitor
Friday, March 14, 2014

When PRC leader Xi Jinping met with Taiwan’s former vice president Vincent Siew at the APEC leaders meeting in early October, he went beyond reiterating the standard position on the importance of promoting peaceful development of cross-Strait relations. Xi said that, in the “long term,” political differences between the two sides must be resolved and not be passed on from generation to generation. In this essay we explore that statement and its implications.

Rearranging the Deck Chairs on the Liaoning?—The PLA Once Again Considers Reorganization

by James Mulvenonvia China Leadership Monitor
Friday, March 14, 2014

Since the first sweeping structural reform of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army in 1985, the military media have periodically floated trial balloons about deeper restructuring, but the political realities of the situation have consistently stymied the proposed changes. In early 2014, the Japanese newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun reported that the PLA was planning to make the most significant modifications to its command and control structure in almost 30 years, replacing its administrative, geographically oriented military region system with a mission-oriented configuration designed to match the increasing “joint” orientation of its deployed forces. To the surprise of many, official Chinese media organs did not reject the report out of hand, but instead expressed dismay that the information had been disseminated prematurely, and grudgingly acknowledged plans to carry out the changes. This article describes the historical rationale for the current command and control structure of the PLA, analyzes the factors motivating its alteration, and assesses the implications of these latest indications of reform.

After the Third Plenum: Economic Reform Revival Moves toward Implementation

by Barry Naughtonvia China Leadership Monitor
Friday, March 14, 2014

The Third Plenum basically fulfilled the expectations placed on it, as it responded adequately to the credibility crisis that confronts Chinese policy today. New challenges of interpretation and implementation now rise to the fore. With the creation and staffing of the Reform Leadership Small Group, the initial outlines of the implementation process are coming into view. These show continued strong commitment to the goals of economic reform, but significant risks of reform strategy and implementation persist.

Mao’s Shadow

by Joseph Fewsmithvia China Leadership Monitor
Friday, March 14, 2014

Nearly four decades after his death, Mao Zedong remains a controversial figure in Chinese Communist Party history, raising as he does questions of legitimacy. Over the past year the issue of how the Mao years should be evaluated in comparison to the reform years has been raised and discussed by Xi Jinping and others. This discussion apparently responds to divergent opinions in the party and seems to reflect Xi Jinping’s determination to define China’s ideology and its limits.

How Strong Is Xi Jinping?

by Alice L. Millervia China Leadership Monitor
Thursday, March 13, 2014

Assessments of the political strength of Xi Jinping have varied widely over the year since he became China’s new top leader. This article addresses the question of Xi’s power in light of the results of the 18th Central Committee’s Third Plenum in November 2014 and of other recent trends.

Xi Jinping’s Inner Circle (Part 1: The Shaanxi Gang)

by Cheng Livia China Leadership Monitor
Friday, March 14, 2014

Like successful politicians elsewhere, President Xi Jinping assumed China’s top leadership role with the support of an inner circle. This group has been crucial to Xi’s efforts to consolidate power during his first year in office. This first article in a series of three focuses on native-place associations, namely the so-called Shaanxi Gang, which includes the “Iron Triangle” grouping in the Politburo Standing Committee. Such discussion can help reveal the future trajectory of politics and policy-making during the Xi administration. The analysis of the positioning and promotion of some of Xi’s longtime friends provides an invaluable assessment of both Xi’s current power and the potential for effective policy implementation.

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Settling in for the Long Haul: Stability with Chinese Characteristics

by Alan D. Rombergvia China Leadership Monitor
Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The political turmoil created in Taiwan by the Kuomintang’s move to oust Legislative Yuan speaker Wang Jin-pyng in mid-September capped off several months of tumult over such issues as the abuse-related heatstroke death of a military recruit, the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant, and the recently signed cross-Strait services trade agreement. 

Xi Jinping’s Inner Circle (Part 1: The Shaanxi Gang)

by Cheng Livia China Leadership Monitor
Friday, March 14, 2014

Like successful politicians elsewhere, President Xi Jinping assumed China’s top leadership role with the support of an inner circle. This group has been crucial to Xi’s efforts to consolidate power during his first year in office. This first article in a series of three focuses on native-place associations, namely the so-called Shaanxi Gang, which includes the “Iron Triangle” grouping in the Politburo Standing Committee. Such discussion can help reveal the future trajectory of politics and policy-making during the Xi administration. The analysis of the positioning and promotion of some of Xi’s longtime friends provides an invaluable assessment of both Xi’s current power and the potential for effective policy implementation.

Mao’s Shadow

by Joseph Fewsmithvia China Leadership Monitor
Friday, March 14, 2014

Nearly four decades after his death, Mao Zedong remains a controversial figure in Chinese Communist Party history, raising as he does questions of legitimacy. Over the past year the issue of how the Mao years should be evaluated in comparison to the reform years has been raised and discussed by Xi Jinping and others. This discussion apparently responds to divergent opinions in the party and seems to reflect Xi Jinping’s determination to define China’s ideology and its limits.

After the Third Plenum: Economic Reform Revival Moves toward Implementation

by Barry Naughtonvia China Leadership Monitor
Friday, March 14, 2014

The Third Plenum basically fulfilled the expectations placed on it, as it responded adequately to the credibility crisis that confronts Chinese policy today. New challenges of interpretation and implementation now rise to the fore. With the creation and staffing of the Reform Leadership Small Group, the initial outlines of the implementation process are coming into view. These show continued strong commitment to the goals of economic reform, but significant risks of reform strategy and implementation persist.

Rearranging the Deck Chairs on the Liaoning?—The PLA Once Again Considers Reorganization

by James Mulvenonvia China Leadership Monitor
Friday, March 14, 2014

Since the first sweeping structural reform of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army in 1985, the military media have periodically floated trial balloons about deeper restructuring, but the political realities of the situation have consistently stymied the proposed changes. In early 2014, the Japanese newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun reported that the PLA was planning to make the most significant modifications to its command and control structure in almost 30 years, replacing its administrative, geographically oriented military region system with a mission-oriented configuration designed to match the increasing “joint” orientation of its deployed forces. To the surprise of many, official Chinese media organs did not reject the report out of hand, but instead expressed dismay that the information had been disseminated prematurely, and grudgingly acknowledged plans to carry out the changes. This article describes the historical rationale for the current command and control structure of the PLA, analyzes the factors motivating its alteration, and assesses the implications of these latest indications of reform.

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The China Leadership Monitor seeks to inform the American foreign policy community about current trends in China's leadership politics and in its foreign and domestic policies. The Monitor proceeds on the premise that as China's importance in international affairs grows, American policy-makers and the broader policy-interested public increasingly need analysis of politics among China's leadership that is accurate, comprehensive, systematic, current, and relevant to major areas of interest to the United States.

China Leadership Monitor analysis rests heavily on traditional China-watching methods of interpreting information in China's state-controlled media. Use of these methods was once universal among specialists in contemporary Chinese affairs. Although the use of these methods has declined as opportunities to study China using other approaches have opened up in recent decades, their value in following politics among China's top leadership has not. Monitor analysis also brings to bear some of the new avenues of information and insight that have opened up since the normalization of U.S.-China relations and China's policy "opening to the outside world" in the late 1970s.

The China Leadership Monitor website is updated with new analyses quarterly.

The China Leadership Monitor is sponsored by the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution, and Peace at Stanford University. Its general editor is Hoover Institution research fellow Alice Miller.