This essay offers an analytical framework and a set of assumptions for assessing China's security policies and reviews important trends in China's security relations. The analytical approach should help us know what to look for when observing key events ahead. These include: Taiwan's 2001 Legislative Yuan elections; economic developments in cross-Straits relations; arms acquisitions and military exercises on the mainland and in Taiwan; Chinese and American diplomatic overtures in Northeast Asia, Southeast Asia, and South Asia; and the 2002 Chinese Communist Party congress.
The conduct of the Chinese government during the recent EP-3 crisis raised important questions about the state of civil-military relations in China. Observers at the time were divided as to whether the comments of senior military leaders and editorials in military newspapers were different in content than their civilian counterparts. They were also divided over whether these differences reflected only variations in propaganda or actual institutional divergence. In addition, most analysts seemed convinced that the military monopolized critical information flows to the leadership, especially data about the causes of the collision and the lack of mayday calls by the EP-3, thus tying the hands of Foreign Ministry negotiators and perhaps even unnecessarily drawing out the crisis. Using interviews, some secondary sources, and detailed content analysis of civilian and military media during the crisis, this essay explores these themes.
On July 1, Jiang Zemin, general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), called for admitting private entrepreneurs into the party. Although this decision in some ways brought party policy into line with reality, it was an important announcement not only because it reversed a formal party decision made in the wake of the Tiananmen crackdown but also because it opened the door to a wide range of possible political changes. Jiang's announcement may be only the tip of the iceberg. Recent publications have suggested that, in the run-up to the Sixteenth Party Congress (scheduled for fall 2002), party leaders are thinking systematically about the changes it needs to make to cope with the very rapid socioeconomic changes in Chinese society. Although the clear goal is to keep the CCP in power, it is evident that party leaders at the highest levels understand that they can only stay in power by changing. Political change is not without danger. "Leftists" in the party have excoriated Jiang's announcement, and there is widespread resentment over inequalities that have opened up in recent years in Chinese society. If the party is widely seen as speaking only for the well to do—a perception that is already widespread—popular discontent is likely to continue to spread.
Beijing is displaying signs of Zhu Rongji fatigue. Due both to his impending retirement, and to the particularities of his vision of the economic reform process, Zhu's economic policy prescriptions are not as vital or indispensable as before. However, Zhu's legacy of accomplishment is secure. More immediately, Zhu has been preparing the ground for his all-but-designated successor, Wen Jiabao. A smooth transfer of power to Wen will add to Zhu's already formidable reputation as one of the architects of post-Deng China.
The scheduling of the Sixteenth Congress of the Chinese Communist Party by a recent Central Committee plenum inaugurates a prolonged process of preparations that will dominate leadership politics over the coming year and color Beijing's approach to policy in all areas. Expected to convene in the fall next year, the congress will lay the foundation for subsequent policy departures and put into place a new generation of top Party leaders. Judging by the themes of leadership statements and press commentary in recent months, the focus of the Congress is likely to be reform of the Communist Party itself so that it can better manage China's increasingly market-driven economy and the impact of China's upcoming entry into the WTO.
China's provincial leadership is both a training ground for national leadership and a battleground among various political forces. Provincial chiefs currently carry much more weight than ever before in the history of the PRC. This is largely because the criteria for national leadership have shifted from revolutionary credentials such as participation in the Long March to administrative skills such as coalition-building. In addition, provincial governments now have more autonomy in advancing their own regional interests. Nonetheless, nepotism and considerations of factional politics are still evident in the recruitment of provincial leaders. Emerging top-level national leaders—including Hu Jintao, Zeng Qinghong, and Wen Jiabao—have all drawn on the pool of provincial leaders in building their factions, hoping to occupy more seats on the upcoming Sixteenth Central Committee and the Politburo. At the same time, new institutional mechanisms have been adopted to curtail various forms of nepotism. The unfolding of these contradictory trends will not only determine who will rule China after 2002, but even more importantly, how this most populous country in the world will be governed.