This essay addresses three important issues in Beijing's security policy since early September. First, and most obvious, is the September 11 attack on America and the newfound spirit of U.S.-China cooperation that arose from that atrocious event. Second are trends in the mainland's relations with Taiwan in the weeks surrounding the December 2001 Legislative Yuan elections, in which President Chen Shui-bian's Party, the DPP, did surprisingly well despite the economic recession on Taiwan. Third are arms control issues surrounding President Bush's announcement of Washington's impending unilateral withdrawal from the ABM Treaty.
More than three years have passed since the December 1998 announcement that the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) had formally divested itself from commercial operations. The intervening period has witnessed the expected "mop-up" campaigns on the part of the central leadership and significant resistance and foot-dragging on the part of local military officials, repeating the pattern of rectifications in the system since the late 1980s. Given Hu Jintao's role as official head of the central leading group overseeing divestiture and his widely expected ascension to the central leadership core at the Sixteenth Party Congress, the time seems ripe for a re-examination of the civil-military features of divestiture and their implications for the future party-army relationship.
Chi Haotian has a unique profile among the current military leadership, combining combat experience and military professional skills with a long career in political work. As a result, he embodies the PLA's seemingly contradictory goals of politicization and professionalization.
After Jiang Zemin delivered his groundbreaking speech on the communist party's anniversary last summer, there was much speculation about the strength of his political position and controversy over the meaning of the speech itself. Close examination of authoritative commentary, however, suggests that the speech has received strong support within the party and represents far more than the general secretary's personal views. Moreover, articles by party theoreticians based at the Central Party School indicate that Jiang's speech was intended to convey a program of wide-ranging political reform, albeit not one of democratization. This program of political reform is intended to meet the domestic and international challenges facing the party and to make the exercise of power in China better institutionalized and more stable.
Since the middle of 2001, the issue of reducing the government ownership stake in corporations listed on the Shanghai and Shenzhen Stock Exchanges has been high profile and highly contentious. This issue touches on many fundamental problems relating to the future of China's economic reforms, including the public ownership system, the development of capital markets, and the long-term social security of China's aging population. The twists and turns in Beijing's approach to this issue in recent months illuminates evolving decision-making processes and sheds light on the continuing role of Premier Zhu Rongji.
The anticipated succession of Hu Jintao to be China's top-ranking leader at the upcoming Sixteenth Party Congress will cap the outcome of a ten-year effort to groom him for the position. If Hu does in fact replace Jiang Zemin, the transition in leaders will mark an important new step in the effort, launched by Deng Xiaoping two decades ago, to institutionalize orderly processes in PRC politics. As the Party's top leader, Hu will likely play to the party's center to maintain his own power, while cautiously but steadily extending the liberalizing policies of Jiang Zemin in much the same manner that Jiang did those of his predecessor Deng Xiaoping.
Of all the issues enmeshed in China's on-going political succession, one of the most intriguing concerns the prospects of the so-called "Shanghai gang" associated with party leader Jiang Zemin. The future of the "Shanghai gang" will determine whether Jiang will continue to play a behind-the-scenes role as China's paramount leader after retiring as party general secretary at the Sixteenth Party Congress in the fall of 2002. More importantly, contention over the future of the "Shanghai gang" constitutes a critical test of whether China can manage a smooth political succession, resulting in a more collective and power-sharing top leadership.