Jiang followed suit, serving as general-secretary of the CCP for 13 years between 1989 and 2002 and retaining the CMC chairmanship for several years after. He was doing what Deng had done as CMC chairman from 1981 to 1989, refusing to leave the post during the Hu Yaobang and Zhao eras. Jiang was finally forced to relinquish the post in 2004, but even now continues to interfere in government. In the 18th Party Congress, Hu established a new model. In the future, nobody will be able to copy Deng or Jiang and proclaim themselves the “core” of their generation.
The so-called tuanpai — the Youth League — and “princelings” are artificial concepts. Some of the Communist Youth League were originally from the anti-reform hardline faction and include Liu Yunshan (劉雲山) among their number. Senior cadres’ sons are known as the princelings and some of these belong to the reformers’ faction, who are far more in tune with the people. Can you say that people like Xi and Hu Deping (胡德平) are remotely similar to Jiang and Bo Xilai (薄熙來), the former party secretary in Chongqing?
That the new Politburo Standing Committee includes members from the hardline and moderate factions is a good thing. In today’s pluralistic Chinese society, it is far better to have many different voices represented than having one person calling the shots. This is how progress is made.
No one man is more powerful than circumstance. In the run-up to the 18th Party Congress, the hardline faction in the party was using its resources within and without China, crying foul over the Bo scandal, and, despite his best efforts to keep it open, Jiang was unable to save his remaining office within the CMC building from being closed. How is this a victory for Jiang?
This year will be one of great change in China. The events of the summer, with the Wang Lijun (王立軍) case giving rise to the Bo scandal and dissident Chen Guangcheng’s (陳光誠) break for freedom, have combined to create a watershed moment for China, marking the end of the balance of terror of Deng’s empire, between anti-rightist political policies that have resisted liberalization, democracy and human rights and the economic policies of the anti-leftists that have led to corruption through reliance on the special-privilege capitalist monopoly market. The 18th Party Congress marked a new dawn in China: Xi and Li are to oversee a historic transition. They do not want to change, but change they must. The march of history does not revolve around the will of individuals.
A Chinese friend once asked me: “If Mao and Deng were despots, and Jiang was a comedian [he actually used the word “clown”], then what of Xi? Perhaps he will be a modern national leader.”
I asked him: “What makes you say that?”
He replied: “He understands the people and he understands the world.”
Xi’s inaugural address gave witness to this. He placed “the greatness of the people” above the status of the party, saying that “[the party’s] strength comes from the people and masses, and that the “people’s yearning for a good and beautiful life is the goal for us to strive for.” He also said: “China needs to learn more about the world and the world also needs to learn more about China.”
Finally, one can discern a thin band of light on the horizon in China, bringing hope that the long night will soon end.