China Leadership Monitor

Studying the Three Represents

Thursday, October 30, 2003

Starting in June, Chinese media have been promoting a new campaign to study the "three represents," Jiang Zemin's ideological formulation that was enshrined in the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) constitution at the 16th Party Congress in fall 2002. Following Hu Jintao's efforts to emphasize a more populist approach to governance, including his "people's war" against severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in April and May, the new campaign has raised new questions about the relationship between Hu and Jiang. Review of the evidence reveals that this campaign has long been in the works and thus should not—in and of itself—be taken as evidence of a reassertion of Jiang's political clout, but there are nevertheless significant differences between the two leaders and their approaches to governance and ideology. Although the evidence suggests that Hu Jintao has been trying to inject new themes and approaches to governance, he remains willing to acknowledge the role of Jiang as elder statesman and refrains from challenging him directly. Thus, political differences are more likely to be played out in personnel decisions and policy priorities over the coming months than in the sort of political competition that is likely to lead to instability.