New CCP elite unlikely reformers: report

By Shih Hsiu-chuan  /  Staff reporter

Wed, Dec 19, 2012 - Page 3

The line-up for new Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leadership is “disappointing” because it looks unlikely to push for reform — an “unfortunate” development, because the task they are faced with is not an enviable one, the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) said in a report on the new leadership.

In a study of the backgrounds and policy positions of China’s new leaders, who were announced last month, the Economist Intelligence Unit, a sister company of Britihs weekly The Economist, said the CCP would continue with a cautious and conservative approach, even though it will surely face growing public pressure for change.

The CCP held its once-in-a-decade leadership transition during its 18th National People’s Congress last month, during which Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping (習近平) was appointed as the new general secretary of the party and chair of the Central Military Commission. Xi will also be taking over from Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) in March.

Vice Premier Li Keqiang (李克強), promoted to second-highest position in the party’s Politburo Standing Committee (PSC), the highest decisionmaking body in China, will replace Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao (溫家寶) next year.

The other members of the PSC, by rank, are Zhang Dejiang (張德江), Yu Zhengsheng (俞正聲), Liu Yunshan (劉雲山), Wang Qishan (王岐山) and Zhang Gaoli (張高麗).

The absences of Li Yuanchao (李源潮) and Wang Yang (汪洋), both high-profile, but controversial, reformers, from the committee mean that there is no figure at the top echelon of the party known to be an advocate of political or administrative reform, the report said.

The paper said that Xi’s background suggested he might be an economic reformer by conviction and that he would place a stronger emphasis on liberalization than Hu, but there is no guarantee that he would be able to push through significant restructuring policies.

There is less hard evidence about Xi’s position on political reform, the report said, but given the intense opposition that any major political reform would face from within the CCP — including from other members of the committee — it seems unlikely that Xi will depart significantly from the limited agenda of the previous leadership, it added.

The report doubted if Li would be able to reform China’s state-owned enterprises, even if he has recently voiced his support for reforming the sector, because the balance of power on the committee suggests that changes may be more limited than observers had hoped.

The study said that Wang’s appointment as head of the CCP’s disciplinary body suggested that Beijing sees fighting corruption as a vital task over the next five years, because of his high standing as a former Chinese vice premier with expertise in financial affairs. However, it added that the structure of the committee means that Wang is likely to be denied the tools to do his job effectively.

Wang’s low rank in the committee and his lack of an economic portfolio bode ill for the prospects of economic reform over the next five years, the report said.