The National People's Congress (NPC) in mid-March produced all the major leadership outcomes predicted by experts on Chinese Communist Party (CCP) personnel issues: Hu Jintao, of course, became president of the People's Republic of China (PRC); Jiang Zemin maintained his powerful position as chair of the Central Military Commission (CMC); and, as long anticipated, Li Zhaoxing replaced Tang Jiaxuan as foreign minister. Tang was promoted to replace Qian Qichen in the role of party overseer of Chinese foreign policy, while trade negotiator Wu Yi will handle the trade portfolio and advise Tang. This lineup is exactly what was predicted by my interlocutors in Beijing in January. Although the NPC followed predicted paths, this outcome does not mean the event was unimportant to PRC foreign policy. On the contrary, China's behavior on the international stage has changed significantly since the NPC on two key issues for U.S.-China relations and China's role in the region: North Korea and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). Although neither problem is close to being solved permanently, China adopted an about-face on both issues in the weeks after the NPC ended and the U.S.-led war in Iraq began. The military overthrow of Saddam Hussein's regime in Baghdad and the passing of the NPC were, arguably, the two most important determinants of the new trends. Relations with Taiwan have been affected by Iraq, North Korea, SARS, and electoral politics in Taipei. Release of the anticipated "assessment" of cross-Strait relations—allegedly a road map for how to pursue gradually the development of direct air, shipping, and communications links (the "three links") across the Taiwan Strait—has been delayed by some combination of international and domestic factors relating to the March 2004 Taiwan presidential elections (for discussion of the assessment, see my entry in CLM 6).
As explored in my submission to CLM 3, the National People's Congress (NPC) meetings, particularly the publicized People's Liberation Army (PLA) delegate discussion sessions, are a consistently useful barometer of the state of party-army relations. This article examines the makeup of the military delegation, outlines the issues highlighted in PLA leaders' speeches and delegates' comments, and analyzes the announced defense budget. Special attention is paid to an article in Liberation Army Daily by Wang Wenjie, particularly a cryptic comment made by a PLA delegate about the problems posed by "two centers," which some analysts took as a criticism of the divided leadership of Hu Jintao and Jiang Zemin.
A month after severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) moved from a medical crisis—albeit one unacknowledged as such by the Chinese authorities—to a political crisis, it has become apparent that the disease will have a significant impact on China's political system, though one that is likely to be long-term rather than immediate. Although some have argued that SARS will be "China's Chernobyl," leading to far-reaching political change and perhaps democratization, others have maintained that the political system will simply absorb the impact and not change. Both judgments appear wide of the mark. Much more likely is that SARS will set off a variety of forces which the government will try to control, but which are going to be increasingly difficult to contain. It is still too early to draw strong conclusions about the impact of the SARS crisis, but some tentative conjectures about both elite politics and the longer-range implications can be hazarded.
The Chinese government was in the midst of a major reorganization when the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) epidemic exploded upon Beijing. That reorganization will go forward, but the suspension of much government activity because of SARS highlights the fact that this ongoing reorganization is still far from complete. The long gestation reflects the powerful competing interests that are at stake. This article examines the creation of one new agency, the China Banking Regulatory Commission (CBRC), and discusses the qualifications and personality of its head, Liu Mingkang. It uses the case of Liu to illustrate the emergence of a new kind of economic technocrat in China.
The 10th National People's Congress (NPC) completed the succession of China's top leaders that began with the Chinese Communist Party's (CCP) 16th Party Congress in fall 2002 and has preoccupied China's politics for more than a year. The NPC's appointment of new leaders to most top state posts has ended the suspense regarding the leadership transition, but it has not done much to clarify ambiguities about their power relative to each other. Nevertheless, initiatives by the new leadership under party General Secretary and now People's Republic of China (PRC) President Hu Jintao have made it clear that China's leaders do not intend a conservative, status quo approach to the country's political issues and policy problems, but rather have already embarked on a clearly activist agenda.
Understanding the provincial leaders' biographical backgrounds, tenure in office, political socialization, career patterns, and rate of reshuffling is essential to the study of Chinese politics. This study focuses on the 412 current top provincial leaders, a cluster of elites that includes all current provincial party secretaries, governors (or mayors of provincial-level administrations in the cities), deputy provincial party secretaries, and vice governors or vice mayors. These people are the most important political leaders at the provincial level in present-day China. Data for this study are based principally on official Chinese information that has recently become available to the public on the Internet. I have constructed a database on the biographies of these 412 top provincial leaders. Each biography includes 76 entries, which are indexed into eight major categories for analytical purposes. These categories are: 1) basic biographical information, 2) status of membership and position, 3) promotion patterns, 4) regional background, 5) reshuffling experience, 6) work experience, 7) educational background, and 8) political association and networks. This report focuses on the first three categories.