The election campaigns in Taiwan continue to move along with all of the surprise twists and turns one might have predicted. The UN referendum issue continued to be a focus of much of the campaigning, given particular prominence by official American statements highlighting U.S. opposition to the DPP proposal to enter the UN “in the name of ‘Taiwan’” and by reactions to those statements from Chen Shui-bian and the candidates. In terms of cross-Strait relations, however, the recent development of greatest interest was General Secretary Hu Jintao’s moderate handling of Taiwan in his political report to the 17th Congress of the Chinese Communist Party, and particularly his mention of a possible cross-Strait “peace agreement.” This went a considerable step beyond Jiang Zemin’s “eight-point proposal” for an agreement on “cessation of hostilities,” and it seemed to accord with KMT presidential candidate Ma Ying-jeou’s proposed “interim peace accord.”
The civilian political leadership changes at the 17th Party Congress in October 2007 have received close scrutiny from outside observers, but important and interesting personnel adjustments in the military have garnered less attention. This article examines recent Chinese military leadership changes in detail, focusing principally on the Central Military Commission but also tracking significant moves at the military region and service level.
The 17th Congress of the Chinese Communist Party was a significant milestone because the post-revolutionary generation had for the first time to sort out issues of succession and power distribution without the looming shadows of luminaries of the past. In general, they did fairly well. There appear to have evolved certain agreed-upon rules—including retirement and the distribution of posts in the Central Committee—that have, so far, confined conflict within certain institutional boundaries. Within these limits, however, there is evidence of a great deal of serious politics taking place. At least two important questions emerge from this. First, how will informal politics mesh with institutional rules? Second, if compromise and the distribution of benefits to different Party interests are the answer (as seems to have been the case at the 17th Party Congress), then will this system be able to respond quickly and effectively to crises?
The 17th Party Congress in October kicked off the process of selecting China’s economic policymakers. The Party Congress was the key step in a top-down process of leadership determination that assigned politicians oversight of economics portfolios. However, not until the end of November did the assignment of one of the most important economics jobs become clear. That was when rising star Chen Deming was designated the new minister of commerce, moving over from the National Development and Reform Commission. Chen will work closely with State Council Secretary-General Ma Kai, under Premier Wen Jiabao and Executive Vice-Premier Li Keqiang. The political process has shaped the economic leadership in some surprising and unexpected ways, and some key posts are still unfilled.
The Chinese Communist Party’s 17th Congress consolidated the power and policy directions promoted by General Secretary Hu Jintao and strengthened his hand in managing leadership processes and in shaping future decisions about leadership appointments. The congress also followed precedent in initiating the process of preparing Hu’s successor, who is intended to take power in 2012–15. Finally, the congress continued the effort to institutionalize collective leadership decision-making among the Politburo oligarchy.
Besides their relatively young age, the six rising stars in the new Politburo—Xi Jinping, Li Keqiang, Li Yuanchao, Wang Qishan, Wang Yang, and Bo Xilai—have one important thing in common. They have all had leadership experience as provincial chiefs. An analysis of the career development of those members of the Politburo and Central Committee with local leadership experience can not only shed light on the primary pathway top Chinese politicians have trod to the pinnacle of power, but can also reveal a great deal about crucial issues such as center-province relations, the distribution of power between geographic regions, and the competition for policy initiatives between political factions.