Mon, Nov 25, 2002 - Page 4 News List

China after the leadership shakeup

Larry M. Wortzel, a former US military attache in Beijing and the newly appointed vice president of the Washington-based Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, examined the implications of the 16th Chinese Communist Party Congress for China itself and also for Taiwan and the US with `Taipei Times' reporter Monique Chu

By Monique Chu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Larry M. Wortzel, newly appointed vice president of the Washington-based Heritage Foundation.

PHOTO: GOERGE TSORNG, TAIPEI TIMES

Taipei Times: Have the recent Byzantine intrigues underpinning China's power transition to the so-called fourth generation of leaders come as a surprise to you?

Larry M. Wortzel: The intrigue about the power transfer has not surprised me. I expected that the senior leaders would want to make sure -- for themselves, for their family and for those that worked for them -- that they are free from being accused of corruption and economic crimes. So one result of the 16th party congress is that each of the senior leaders has someone in place to protect him and watch his back. Hu Jintao's (胡錦濤) flexibility is severely constrained by the fact that Jiang Zemin (江澤民) remains mostly behind the scenes and that Li Peng (李鵬) and Zhu Rongji (朱鎔基) will continue to have great influence.

TT: What's your interpretation of Jiang Zemin's move to retain his post as the chairman of the new Central Military Commission (CMC)?

Wortzel: Certainly I expected that to happen. It's very clear to most observers in the US who know the People's Liberation Army that he would probably do that.

The fact is that the CCP leaders, because they are so influential in the party, continue to have influence until they are dead. And that influence will be taken into consideration in times of crisis. You saw what happened during [the] Tiananmen [massacre], when the advice of senior leaders suddenly became very critical. You saw that during the EP-3 incident as well as the 1995 and 1996 tensions over Taiwan.

That's the way their system is ... It may not be as left-wing revolutionary as it was, but it is still a very strong Leninist party that respects party seniority and insists on party discipline.

TT: Although you say the CCP will remain a very strong Leninist party, the latest party congress moved to officially approve Jiang's "three represents" theory and added capitalist-style ideology to the CCP party charter -- further paving the way for the admission of capitalists into the CCP. Some even said the CCP would begin its transformation from authoritarianism to more democratic tendencies. To what extent is this prediction far-fetched?

Wortzel: They didn't do it in Singapore. The People's Action Party in Singapore is still a very authoritarian Leninist party. Singapore has the second freest economy in the world, but it doesn't have freedom of speech, it doesn't have freedom of the press and it doesn't have freedom to assemble. Singapore is a comfortable place to live, but the ruling party remains an authoritarian party.

Certainly if you look at Hong Kong, it is less free than it was under the British. Day by day it becomes less politically free and yet it still has the freest economy in the world. And I think that's the goal of the CCP.

The CCP, however, will have its own problems because there are still people in China who are communists and believe in communism. They believe in communism the way Christians believe in the resurrection of Christ ... In the end, they have created a great tension inside their own party by doing that.

TT: Some say the composition of the nine-man Politburo Standing Committee -- with five from the Jiang-led Shanghai clique -- indicated that the seeds of a vehement factional struggle between Hu and the Shanghai clique have been sown. What's your take on this?

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