China’s behavior and rhetoric toward Japan regarding a range of controversial events in the East China Sea—from resource claims to naval transits and island territories—constitute a major component of an arguably escalating pattern of assertiveness between Beijing and several of its maritime neighbors. Among these altercations, Beijing’s increasingly acrimonious confrontation with Tokyo over five small islands northeast of Taiwan (called the Diaoyu Islands by China and the Senkaku Islands by Japan) is arguably the most dangerous.
As Beijing established a new state leadership at the 12th National People’s Congress and its companion meeting, the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference in March 2013, PRC officials continued to stress policy consistency toward Taiwan along lines laid out at the 18th Party Congress in November 2012. They expressed growing confidence that, as cross-Strait relations had already entered a “period of consolidation and deepening” and as the PRC’s growing national power earned it greater international influence, they had the ability to take more initiative in managing cross-Strait development and to cope with foreign “interference” in cross-Strait relations in a calm manner. That said, as one PRC legal scholar pointed out, the central issue regarding Taiwan is “the problem of the Republic of China,” that is both a political issue and a legal issue and at present without solution. The newly appointed head of the Taiwan Affairs Office, Zhang Zhijun, underscored the point when he stated, “as viewed from any perspective, there is no possibility the Mainland will accept the ‘Republic of China.’”
The first plenary session of the 12th National People’s Congress, convened in March 2013, was attended by a large delegation of Chinese military deputies who put forward legislative proposals, listened to government speeches, and met to discuss national military and security issues. This article highlights key military themes from the congress sessions, in particular the role of the PLA in Central Military Commission Chairman Xi Jinping’s vision of the “China dream” and Xi’s three-part “instructions” to the PLA for the coming year.
To paraphrase Hobbes’ characterization of life, one may say that the politics preceding the 18th Party Congress were long, nasty and brutish. The irony of this process is that in the end the political calculus worked out well for new party leader and president, Xi Jinping. As far as one can tell from the outside, he neither presides over a deeply divided Standing Committee nor faces an incumbent head of the Central Military Commission (CMC), as Hu Jintao was forced to do a decade ago. Moreover, as a princeling whose revolutionary heritage is unquestioned, Xi has approached his job with a confidence unseen in his two predecessors, especially early in their terms.
China’s leaders declared a reform renewal last year, but nothing of significance occurred until the National People’s Congress concluded. Although the congress confirmed the appointments of important reformist technocrats Zhou Xiaochuan and Lou Jiwei, and Liu He took over the office of the Economics and Finance Leadership Small Group of the Communist Party, power was also carefully balanced with representatives of the state sector. Since the NPC meeting, however, there have been clear signs of a renewal of reform policy-making in both the Communist Party and the State Council. The progress of these initiatives should be carefully monitored.
Appointments to PRC government posts at the 12th National People’s Congress in March 2013 completed the generational leadership transition that began at last fall’s 18th Party Congress. Analysis of the division of policy responsibilities among the new leadership provides insight into the structure and processes of policy-making under the new party general secretary, Xi Jinping.
This essay assesses the new Politburo of the Chinese Communist Party—the 25 highest-ranking leaders in the party, government, and military in present-day China—using biographical data regarding age, gender, birthplace, educational and occupational credentials, bureaucratic portfolio and career patterns, and political affiliations and factional backgrounds. Norms of elite selection may be inferred from such data, which allows a broad-based quantitative and qualitative analysis of the changes in the top leadership. Findings include the ascendancy of leaders with experience as provincial party secretaries, the swift decline of technocrats, and the appearance of a new form of the factional balance of power. The essay concludes with a preview of the leading contenders for the next Politburo and its supreme Standing Committee.