The previous issue of the Monitor assessed whether, to what extent, and in what manner Beijing is becoming more assertive in promoting the concept of “core interests.” This essay complements that analysis by examining Chinese statements and actions with regard to China’s entire maritime periphery, from the Yellow Sea to the South China Sea, with regard to both disputed and undisputed maritime territories. It assesses whether, to what degree, and in what ways the PRC has become more assertive along its maritime periphery in recent years. It also assesses the external and domestic forces motivating Beijing to become more or less assertive over time and the prospects for Chinese assertiveness with regard to maritime sovereignty issues in the future.
The focus of cross-Strait relations has turned to Taiwan’s January 2012 presidential election, and particularly to the Democratic Progressive Party’s selection of its candidate for president and on the shaping of party positions on key issues—each with potentially major implications for relations between Beijing and Taipei. The DPP’s nomination of party chair Tsai Ing-wen and its focus on domestic economic and social issues as well as cross-Strait policies will have an important bearing on Beijing’s attitude toward the prospect of another DPP administration, and principally with regard to the DPP’s underlying doctrine regarding Taiwan independence and the concept of “one China.” With only a few months to go before votes are cast, most public opinion polls show a very close race between incumbent President Ma Ying-jeou and Tsai. Demonstrating its continued hope that Ma will win reelection, Beijing has been sending out increasingly explicit signals that any administration in Taipei that does not oppose “Taiwan independence” and embrace the “1992 Consensus” (or some equivalent formulation affirming “one China”) will find it hard to do business across the Strait. At the same time, Beijing must wrestle with the very real possibility of a Tsai victory and the prospect that freezing cross-Strait relations could ultimately redound to the detriment of its long-term efforts to woo Taiwan toward reunification.
Between 3 and 5 June 2011, the national security officials of 28 Asia-Pacific nations gathered in Singapore for the annual Asia Security Summit, also known as the Shangri-La Dialogue. After a rough year, marked by clashes with regional neighbors and an unprecedented rebuke at the ASEAN Regional Forum, Beijing saw this year’s meeting as an opportunity to repair damage and restore strategic momentum, and therefore sent its highest-ranking delegation in 10 years of meetings. This article examines Chinese strategic communications in the runup to the Dialogue, analyzes the content of General Liang’s keynote speech and his meetings with foreign counterparts, and assesses the implications for Chinese relations with the United States and the remainder of the region.
Since April, China has focused on the inflationary challenge. The months of delay before strong measures were taken allowed inflationary pressures to become established, and inflation increased through July despite tight monetary policy. Politicians have resorted to price controls, including in the sensitive housing sector. The lack of success in fighting inflation has fed an unsettled mood in the population, which complicates the power transition set for next year. In particular, the position of Li Keqiang, premier designate, has been weakened.
In recent years, especially since 2008, there has been a broad-ranging discussion about whether a “China model” exists, and, if so, whether it is good or bad, and whether it is restricted to China or can be spread to other countries. While this discussion has involved both Chinese and foreign scholars around the world, it is largely a discussion about Chinese identity and whether and how China should adopt “Western” concepts and practices or resist such trends. Although some of the discussions are serious explorations of development trends, most are highly politicized and emotional. Participants in the discussion tend to fall along the lines of past debates, with those identified with the “new left” advocating the existence and virtues of the China model, and those identified as liberal rejecting the claims of the former. In addition, there are some who seek to avoid politicization by taking an agnostic attitude toward the existence of a China model. In many ways, the discussion of the China model is a recurrence of earlier debates over “socialism” and “capitalism,” “the Beijing consensus,” and even earlier debates in Chinese history about the uniqueness of Chinese civilization.
During Hu Jintao’s tenure as general secretary, the Politburo Standing Committee of the Chinese Communist Party has operated under a structure intended to promote collective decision-making on the basis of informed deliberation and consensus and to reinforce stable oligarchic rule. This structure is a refinement of top decision-making arrangements first set down in the 1950s, then restored in the early 1980s by Deng Xiaoping, and revised by Hu’s predecessor Jiang Zemin. While Hu’s presumed successor Xi Jinping is not bound by any explicit provision in the party constitution to replicate the structure and associated policy-making processes of the Hu era, their intended purpose would seem to constrain his freedom to reshape them arbitrarily.
The apparatchiks, or functionaries, of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), a group that includes several heavyweight contenders for the new top leadership, are particularly important at a time when the Chinese leadership is undergoing a large-scale generational change. These Party apparatchiks control the two most crucial functional domains of the Chinese political system: organization and propaganda. The Central Committee’s Organization Department is responsible for supervising or coordinating the turnover of thousands of current CCP officials in favor of younger colleagues from the central down to the township level, a process that began early this year and will conclude at the 18th Party Congress in the fall of 2012. Meanwhile, the Central Committee Propaganda Department’s recent tightening of media control and the return of old-fashioned Maoist propaganda (as evident in Chongqing’s propaganda fanaticism, which is endorsed by some top leaders) seems to reflect the growing tension between the continuation of rigid ideological indoctrination on the part of the Party apparatus and an increasingly pluralistic and rapidly changing society. This essay assesses the career paths, factional identities, and political status of the top 56 Party apparatchiks, and also analyzes a number of contending governance mechanisms in the now 90-year-old party, which has been struggling for survival or revival.