This essay addresses three questions relating to the 16th Party Congress. First, what do the power transition and the new lineup of leaders mean for the prospect for future flexibility and new thinking in Beijing on key security issues important to U.S.-China relations: Taiwan, the war on terrorism, Iraq and the U.N. Security Council, weapons proliferation, North Korea, etc.? Second, what evidence exists of new thinking more broadly in the younger generations of Chinese foreign policy elites (35-60 years old) who are replacing the generation of Jiang Zemin, Qian Qichen, and retiring generals such as Chi Haotian and Zhang Wannian? Third, what role do these changes play, if any, in the marked recent warming trends in relations between Washington and Beijing?
For Western observers of the People's Liberation Army (PLA), the 16th Party Congress presented a curious mixture of the past, the present, and the future. Jiang Zemin's long-rumored and ultimately successful bid to retain the chairmanship of the Central Military Commission (CMC) brought back memories of party-army relations in the late 1980s before Tiananmen. At the same time, the new crop of PLA leaders elevated to the CMC represents the present and future PLA, possessing high levels of experience, training, and education, and thus professionalism. This article explores the implications of Jiang's gambit, analyzes the retirements of senior PLA leaders and the biographies of their replacements, and offers some predictions about the choice of defense minister and the future course of Chinese Communist Party (CCP)-PLA relations.
Jiang Zemin emerged from the recent 16th Party Congress and First Plenary Session of the 16th Central Committee with a sweeping victory. Not only were his "three represents" written into the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) charter, but his allies also emerged in critical positions on the Politburo and its Standing Committee. Jiang himself will continue to hold the chairmanship of the powerful Central Military Commission (CMC). In terms of understanding Chinese politics, however, does this mean that personnel can be manipulated at will, without reference to institutions? Not entirely, for institutions are taking on greater force in Chinese politics, but Jiang has proven a master of working--and dominating--the institutions. Looking closely at the results of the recent CCP congress makes Jiang's victory at the 15th Party Congress in 1997 all the more important. Although it is too early to predict what will ultimately ensue at the highest reaches of Chinese politics, Jiang's domination of personnel decisions makes it very difficult for Hu Jintao, relying primarily on the institutional power of the office of general secretary, to consolidate power in his person.
The 16th Party Congress focused primarily on political principles and personnel issues. With respect to economic policy, the party congress understandably stressed continuity. Thus, fewer dramatic signs of future economic policy orientation have come in the aftermath of the congress than may be the case in other issue areas. In economic policy, the most important personnel choices tend to come at the level of ministers and vice ministers, one level below the top politicians chosen by the 16th Party Congress. These choices are being announced only gradually in the run-up to the 10th National People’s Congress (NPC) meeting in March 2003. Nonetheless, some important choices have already been made—particularly with respect to the financial system—and the implications of those choices are discussed in this essay. The most important signal is the promotion of the former chairman of the China Securities Regulatory Commission (CSRC), Zhou Xiaochuan, to head the Central Bank. The reassignment of economic managers is especially important because the key personnel involved represent the young, better-educated members of China’s “fourth generation,” those who began their educations after the Cultural Revolution. The senior members of the fourth generation, who have just ascended to the top of the formal political system, by contrast completed their educations before the Cultural Revolution. Some of the shortcomings of the political succession process may imply that the younger, post–Cultural Revolution leaders could begin to play an especially important role effective immediately.
The Chinese Communist Party's (CCP) 16th Party Congress delivered a turnover of top leaders that marks the first stage in a process of managed leadership transition unprecedented in People's Republic of China (PRC) politics. The congress brought to the party's top ranks a new generation of younger leaders and saw the retirement of the cohort of party leaders who had dominated China's politics since the early 1990s. The changes in the party's top leadership foreshadow comparable turnover in top PRC state posts at the 10th National People's Congress (NPC) in March 2003. The congress also ratified amendments to the party constitution that promise a watershed transformation of the party makeup in coming years.
Of all the personnel changes that occurred during the 16th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), the most remarkable one is probably the predominant representation of leaders from China's 31 provincial-level administrations. These top provincial leaders differ from each other in their factional affiliations and occupational backgrounds. As a distinct group of leaders with identical career paths, however, provincial leaders achieved a landslide victory at the 16th Party Congress. Compared with top officials from other bureaucratic institutions in the central administration and in the military, provincial leaders obtained the largest number of seats on both the Central Committee and the Politburo.