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Party Affairs

Hu Jintao and the Party Politburo

by Alice L. Millervia China Leadership Monitor
Friday, January 30, 2004

Publicity attending the recent party Central Committee plenum and other media attention over the past year have shed light on the operations of the party's top decision-making body, the Politburo, under party General Secretary Hu Jintao's leadership. Much of the picture of Chinese leadership decision making remains dim, but the recent publicity has illuminated the formal aspects of Politburo routines and procedures in small but still significant ways. This publicity also permits tentative inferences about the dynamic of power in the Politburo and its Standing Committee and perhaps about Hu Jintao's personal aims in pressing institutional reform in the Politburo and beyond.

The Outlook

by George P. Shultzvia Hoover Digest
Friday, January 30, 2004

Former secretary of state George P. Shultz surveys the current Asian political and economic landscape.

Political Reform

The Third Plenary Session of the 16th Central Committee

by Joseph Fewsmithvia China Leadership Monitor
Friday, January 30, 2004

The recent Third Plenary Session of the 16th Central Committee suggests that despite obvious signs of tension within the leadership over the past year, Chinese Communist Party (CCP) General Secretary Hu Jintao has begun to put his distinct stamp on policy. A long "Decision" on the goals of further economic reform—the only document emerging the plenum to be made public—indicates a greater concern with balanced growth and the social dimensions of economic development than did the political report adopted at the 16th Party Congress in fall 2002. Although the plenum did not take up the issue of political reform explicitly, it adopted a new party procedure that called for the Politburo to report on its work to the whole Central Committee, a step advertised as a step toward "inner-party democracy." Recent articles in party journals indicate that discussions continue on political reform, albeit of a limited sort, and that there are likely to be significant developments in this area in the future.

Economic Policy

An Economic Bubble? Chinese Policy Adapts to Rapidly Changing Conditions

by Barry Naughtonvia China Leadership Monitor
Friday, January 30, 2004

During the first half of 2003, rapid growth in China led many to proclaim the emergence of an economic "bubble." Extremely rapid growth of money and credit was accompanied by rapid growth in investment, especially in the housing market. Chinese policymakers have taken steps to restrain the bubble, and these measures are now having an impact. During this first phase, the emergence of the bubble and the way that it was handled seem to have strengthened the positions of both Premier Wen Jiabao and Central Bank Governor Zhou Xiaochuan. However, the rapid emergence of the bubble economy reveals some unsettling realities about the Chinese economy. Moreover, the bubble portends important shifts in the economic payoffs and challenges that lie ahead for the political leadership.

Military Affairs

The Mystery of the Missing Godfather: Civil-Military Relations and the Shenzhou-5 Manned Space Mission

by James Mulvenonvia China Leadership Monitor
Friday, January 30, 2004

On October 15, 2003, China launched Shenzhou-5, its first manned space mission. China's space program was personally associated with Jiang during his tenure China's top leader, and he was prominently involved in the previous four Shenzhou launches. In the saturated media coverage of the launch and recovery, however, Jiang was noticeably absent. Instead, the new top party leader Hu Jintao was the center of the action, issuing the "important speech" on the success of the mission, and PRC Premier Wen Jiabao played a significant role. This report examines the possible reasons why Jiang was not in attendance at the Shenzhou-5 launch and assesses their implications for Chinese civil-military relations.

Foreign Policy

China's Foreign Policy Leadership: Testing Time

by Robert L. Suettingervia China Leadership Monitor
Friday, January 30, 2004

Over the course of the last two years, and particularly since the elevation of Hu Jintao to the most prominent positions in China's leadership, China's foreign policy appears to have undergone a significant transformation in favor of enhanced pragmatism, flexibility, and sophistication. This transformation has coincided with what leaders both in Beijing and in Washington have characterized as the best period in U.S.-China relations in more than a decade. Nevertheless, it is evidence of the volatility of the U.S.-China relationship, and of the difficulty of managing it consistently, that commentators on both sides have recently begun forecasting considerable tension. The proximate cause of this rise in tensions, as it has been so often in the past, is the Taiwan issue, specifically the U.S. attitude toward the Chen Shui-bian government and recent actions Taiwan has taken that Beijing interprets as moves toward independence. For China's leadership, the ensuing months are going to be a time of further testing. Although neither party General Secretary Hu Jintao's nor PRC Premier Wen Jiabao's job security is not in jeopardy, neither man's reputation will be burnished by the after-effects of the latest contretemps over Taiwan. How strongly they will push back against domestic critics to maintain China's mild-mannered approach to Washington and Taipei remains an open question.

LAND OF THE SETTING SUN? The Future of Japan

with Toshio Nishi, Steven Vogelvia Uncommon Knowledge
Tuesday, January 6, 2004

From the 1950s through the 1980s, Japan experienced dramatic economic growth as it transformed itself from a defeated militaristic empire into a democratic, high-technology powerhouse. The Japanese economy became so dynamic that, by the late 1980s, some American experts were arguing that Japan would overtake the United States as the world's dominant economic power. And then the Japanese economy collapsed. And for nearly fifteen years, the economic malaise has continued. Why? What does Japan need to do to snap out of its doldrums? And what are the risks and benefits to American interests of a reinvigorated Japan?

Economic Policy

The State Asset Commission: A Powerful New Government Body

by Barry Naughtonvia China Leadership Monitor
Thursday, October 30, 2003

A powerful new government body, the State-Owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission (State Asset Commission, or SAC, for short), was authorized at the 10th National People's Congress in March 2003 and set up operations in June. The SAC represents an important step forward toward clarifying and modernizing the administration of government property rights and improving the oversight of government managers. But at the same time, because the SAC is intended to gather the reins of many types of authority, there is a risk that it will become an overly powerful and interventionist body. The establishment of the SAC reveals much about the sources and exercise of political power in contemporary China. The commission's head, Li Rongrong, exemplifies the newly emerging technocratic leadership. But, the manner in which the SAC falls in the middle of contention over personnel authority also shows how old-style political considerations remain central.

Party Affairs

The Hu-Wen Leadership at Six Months

by Alice L. Millervia China Leadership Monitor
Thursday, October 30, 2003

Party General Secretary Hu Jintao and People's Republic of China (PRC) Premier Wen Jiabao have governed China for nearly six months since their installation at the 16th Party Congress in November 2002 and the 10th National People's Congress (NPC) in March 2003. Since taking power, they have faced unexpected crises and new dilemmas. They have also had an opportunity to put in place policy departures that give concrete expression to the abstruse ideological prescriptions of the party congress. And, they have imparted their own style of governance. Judged from the record so far, Hu and Wen have built on themes of the Jiang Zemin era to pursue an activist agenda of liberalizing economic and political reform and have projected a liberal approach to leadership.

The Provinces

Educational and Professional Backgrounds of Current Provincial Leaders

by Cheng Livia China Leadership Monitor
Thursday, October 30, 2003

This article focuses on the educational and professional characteristics of the current provincial leaders. A quantitative analysis of the data on 325 provincial party secretaries, governors, and their deputies shows three important trends. First, educational credentials continue to be an important criterion in the selection of provincial leaders. Not only has the percentage of provincial leaders with college educations reached a zenith in the history of the People's Republic of China (PRC), but many of these leaders also hold advanced postgraduate degrees. Second, the professional distribution of provincial leaders has become increasingly diversified. Although leaders trained in engineering and the natural sciences continue to dominate provincial-level leadership, economists and those who majored in business management now form the largest professional group among provincial leaders in the younger cohort (age 54 and below). And third, leaders with educational experience overseas have emerged in almost every province-level administration in the country. Most of them studied in the West, especially in the United States. All these recent changes in the profiles of China's provincial leadership will have profound implications for the country's socioeconomic development in the years to come.