The last several months since Hu Jintao's visit to Washington have been very good ones in Sino-American relations. This is true not because the relationship was without sources of friction, but precisely because there were so many such sources, yet they produced little heat. One might draw the conclusion that this state of affairs means a permanent maturing of Sino-American relations. Unfortunately, one would have to base this assessment on scant and perhaps mercurial evidence, since there are so many domestic and international reasons for Beijing and Washington to cooperate in the near term. That word of caution having been voiced, the Bush administration and Jiang Zemin's government have chosen to build on areas of common interest and to minimize areas of conflict without backing away from core elements of their security policies and without ignoring the large differences that they still have over arms proliferation, relations across the Taiwan Strait, and the U.S. approach to the war on terrorism.
In July 2001, Jiang Zemin gave an important speech at the Central Party School, formally introducing the concept of the "three represents," which calls for some dramatic changes in inner-party democracy and ideology. Even before this speech, the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) had been one of the strongest institutional proponents of these new concepts. This article examines the PLA's interpretation of these ideas, as well as the civil-military dynamic driving their praise of Jiang Zemin as the author of the concepts.
Cao Gangchuan’s Military Career Cao Gangchuan was born in Wugang, Henan Province, in December 1935. At age 19, he joined the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and was immediately sent to study artillery and ordnance at two entry-level technical schools, at the latter of which he graduated to serve as a teacher for one year. In 1956, he joined the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), and was singled out for Russian language education to prepare him for six years of study at a prestigious artillery engineering school in the Soviet Union. When Cao returned to the PLA in 1963, he began a long career in the equipment and ordnance system within the Beijing staff departments. For 12 years, including the time of the Cultural Revolution, he worked as a low-level officer in the munitions offices of the General Logistics Department. From the mid-1970s, Cao moved over to assume increasing responsibilities in the equipment departments of the General Staff Department (GSD), serving as deputy director of the Military Equipment Department from 1982-89. During this period, sources close to General Cao confirm that he often traveled to Europe and Russia on procurement delegations. After Tiananmen in 1989, General Cao directly oversaw this commerce as director of the Office of Military Trade under the Central Military Commission.
The 16th Party Congress of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) will convene November 8, 2002. It and the First Plenary Session of the 16th Central Committee that will immediately follow the congress will overhaul China's top leadership, including the Central Committee, the Politburo, the Politburo Standing Committee, the secretariat, and the CCP's Central Military Commission. The congress will also revise the CCP's party charter—to what extent and in what way will be watched closely—and issue a political report, which will review the party's achievements and amend its ideology. Although much anticipated, this party congress is unlikely to provide a sharp turning point in party policy. The influence of Jiang Zemin and/or his close supporters will persist. The political transition many are hoping for is likely to be drawn out, perhaps extending to the 17th Party Congress in 2007.
Economic policy reform slowed markedly at the end of 2001 and beginning of 2002. However, since June 2002, Premier Zhu Rongji has assumed a higher profile, and resumed a more authoritative role in policymaking. This increased activity should be regarded primarily as a defensive strategy. It is designed to prevent Zhu from becoming irrelevant at the end of his term and to avoid the problems that might develop if the central government were seen as weak or passive. Presumably, it is also designed to solidify Zhu's position in history. Some of the new policy activity may smooth the return to a more activist policy regime after the 16th Party Congress.
After a summer of last-minute wrangling, Beijing moved swiftly to complete preparations for the Chinese Communist Party's (CCP) 16th Party Congress. Since the leadership's annual summer retreat at the north China seaside resort at Beidaihe, leadership statements and authoritative press commentary have implied that the congress, scheduled to open on November 8, 2002, will see the long-anticipated retirement of "third generation" leaders around party General Secretary Jiang Zemin and the installation of a new "fourth generation" leadership led by Hu Jintao. Chinese press commentary has also indicated that the party constitution will be amended to incorporate the "three represents"—the controversial political reform enunciated by Jiang Zemin nearly three years ago which aims to broaden the party's base by admitting the entrepreneurial, technical, and professional elite that has emerged in Chinese society under two decades of economic reform.
China's ongoing political succession has been filled with paradoxes. Jockeying for power among various factions has been fervent and protracted, but the power struggle has not led to a systemic crisis as it did during the reigns of Mao and Deng. While nepotism and favoritism in elite recruitment have become prevalent, educational credentials and technical expertise are also essential. Regional representation has gained importance in the selection of Central Committee members, but leaders who come from coastal regions will likely dominate the new Politburo. Regulations such as term limits and an age requirement for retirement have been implemented at various levels of the Chinese leadership, but these rules and norms will perhaps not restrain the power of Jiang Zemin, the 76-year-old "new paramount leader." While the military's influence on political succession has declined during the past decade, the Central Military Commission is still very powerful. Not surprisingly, these paradoxical developments have led students of Chinese politics to reach contrasting assessments of the nature of this political succession, the competence of the new leadership, and the implications of these factors for China's future. This diversity of views is particularly evident regarding the ubiquitous role of mishu in the Chinese leadership.