Wandering China

An East/West pulse of China's fourth rise from down under.

China’s mystery man faces struggle at home and abroad [CNN]


So, Obama will be at the helm of the US again. Now attention naturally turns to China.

Sometimes it is what seems apparent.

China’s obaque system will be intensely under scrutiny. But it’s always been apparent what the outcome of the Chinese leadership transition would look like – with Xi arguably at the helm. The Chinese will soon gather for their interpretation of a ‘democratic’ vote at the highest level to install the cogs in the wheel with an outlook of ten years in their sights.

Depending on how one is informed, the role of media in shaping opinion and worldviews continues to hold substance today.

Here we know to also understand what the Chinese think.

What is apparent to the average Chinese media consumer, on a traditional diet of top-down state media, to provocative provincial media, to fact that the humble village outcry that could prompt government intervention numbers close to 200,000 recorded mass incidents annually.

Add on the fact that by numbers they are the world’s biggest virtual network, with a technological equivalence of dominant western network technology. Yet beyond the obvious ‘parallelling’, the Chinese are known for their diligence to copying and modelling, for anyone who investigates Chinese art, thought, or training. They have the world’s largest and most participative public sphere online and that means the world’s largest workforce is also the most socially networked, an important skill for the twenty-first century. A place where cultural differences are less apparent, nor important. This is something perhaps a wider body of the rest of the world should learn too –

I am fortunate for this analysis by my father. He is one who has well-experienced the ups and downs of fledgling free market of China by doing business across the east coast of China for a period of five years. He maintains an extensive network of business contacts in China who keep him in tune with how China is from within.

He starts by simply stating, everything is already decided before Nov 8, 2012.

To the Chinese, he unflinchingly feels, domestic outcry is their biggest concern.

The loss of markets – meaning loss of jobs will be the real reason for the bigger outcry (quite similar to the U.S. at the present moment – where employment in a time of massive economic restructuring are overarching).

So they will toe the line, the goal is simply not to lose markets and making customers uncomfortable. People need to remember China itself is huge customer with 1.3 billion domestic market. Anyone who has travelled to China as a tourist can see the overwhelming (not all) domestic tourists at first hand would see this. Therefore, economic downturn or not, so under adverse economic conditions, all will come to terms (i think).

He goes on to talk about its social structure, fast reconfiguring to the twenty-first century, but not quite there yet. A good fit is still some way away.

He feels they would not mind losing thousands of unhappy well-informed middle-class every now and then. That said, they definitely do not want to have millions of those who lack means to get out to wreck havoc from within. Simply put, their main task: making sure majority of 1.4bln have the basic needs, continue to sell hope and they continue to rule.

So, for a further glimpse into catches a glimpse of the amount of pubic sphere discourse on the US elections on Chinese TV… Here’s a top five list of great Chinese current affairs programmes for a peek into their abundant, internal discourse.

1. 文茜的世界週报 http://www.ctitv.com.tw/newchina_video_c134v103030.html – ‘Wen Qian: the purpose of her show is to help taiwanese & chinese speaking audience keeping up with china’

2. 一虎一席谈 http://phtv.ifeng.com/program/yhyxt/ – ‘usual phoenix tv mission of reaching worldwide chinese, the show always show different views’
3. 解码陈文茜 http://phtv.ifeng.com/program/jmcwq/ ‘quite similar to Wen Qian’s taiwan show’
4. 风云对话 http://phtv.ifeng.com/program/fydh/ – Yuan Feng: 阮 is very well respected by international political watchers’

5. 社会能见度 http://phtv.ifeng.com/program/shnjd/– ‘going in depth into china social ills’

– – –

China’s mystery man faces struggle at home and abroad
By Stan Grant
Source – CNN, published November 6, 2012

Beijing (CNN) — Xi Jinping is a mystery. So much so that the presumed leader-in-waiting of the world’s most populous nation could vanish for more than a week without any explanation being given.

In September this year, Xi disappeared. It sparked a flurry of rumors: he’d had a heart attack, suffered a stroke, was injured swimming, and had even gone on strike.

Xi eventually re-appeared and normal transmission was resumed. But should we be so surprised? Barely an analyst I’ve spoken to can say they really know him, or what type of leader he would be.

Mike Chinoy, a former CNN correspondent and now a senior fellow at the University of Southern California’s U.S-China Institute, has seen China’s leaders come and go but concedes Xi is difficult to read.

“Xi Jinping is in many ways an unknown commodity. He’s risen to the top of the Chinese system by being very careful not to disclose what he really thinks,” Chinoy said.

But this is not an era characterized by leaders such as Mao Zedong or Deng Xiaoping, Chinoy added. The China of the 21st century has no supreme leader. The modern Chinese Communist Party is run by a small collective, the nine members of Politburo Standing Committee of which Xi is expected to be the next leader.

Read: Who are China’s next leaders?

This is an opaque system. It is a transition worked out behind doors — nothing is left to chance and little is revealed to the Chinese people.

As the United States prepares to elect its next president this week, a very different, more selective “democracy” is taking place in China. The 18th Communist Party Congress will come together on November 8 to chart a new course for the country, say farewell to the old leadership and usher in a new generation.

More than 2,200 delegates from across China will gather for the Congress, and they in turn select the 200 plus members of the party’s Central Committee, who in turn appoint the Politburo and ultimately the all-powerful Politburo Standing Committee — the country’s decision makers. But most, if not all, of the outcomes are predetermined.

Read: ‘One party, two coalitions’

The Congress itself meets every five years. It is designed to assess the country’s progress, and set new directions. Every ten years it selects the new leadership.

This year the legacy of the Hu Jintao years is under the microscope. Under President Hu and his Premier, Wen Jiabao, China’s economy has continued to grow, lifting tens of millions of people out of poverty.

China is now entrenched as the world’s second biggest economy and closing fast on the United States. But there are disappointments, and Hu’s much vaunted “harmonious society” is showing signs of cracking.

“These ten years without them accomplishing anything but following old customs without innovation can even be described as political backwardness. It could be seen as a mark of shame in Communist Party history,” said Zhang Ming, an analyst from China’s Renmin University.

Historian Zhang Lifan is even more devastating in his assessment. He believes the very future of the party itself is at risk.

“I once told someone in the party, ‘if your party is to fail one day, when they look for the reason of their failure, this period would be a main part,'” he said.

Certainly it has been a tumultuous year. The veil of secrecy around the party itself has been lifted, with reports of rifts and infighting. The purge of party power broker, Bo Xilai, sparked China’s biggest political scandal in decades.

Read: Bo Xilai under criminal investigation

Bo, once party chief of the massive metropolis of Chongqing, is now in disgrace awaiting trial. His wife, Gu Kailai, is in prison, convicted of murdering a British business associate.

The case of human rights campaigner Chen Guangcheng made global headlines. The blind activist escaped house arrest and took refuge in the U.S Embassy in Beijing, before fleeing to America where he now lives with his family.

China is treading many fault lines: a widening gap between rich and poor, rising unrest about everything from pollution to land seizures, and a slowing economy that some say is in need of serious reform.

Read: Economy central for China’s new leadership

To some China watchers, Xi is going to need to be a traitor to his own class if he is to succeed. Critics say the party and China’s elite have lost touch with the people and are facing a crisis of legitimacy. But others warn against looking to Xi for radical change — as first and foremost he is a son of the party.

“He is part of a consensus to keep the Communist Party as the only ruling party. Any so-called liberty must only be on the condition of the survival of a one-party dictatorship,” said historian Zhang.

What happens in China no longer stays in China. In a world still mired in economic crisis, China is an engine of growth. As the Chinese economy slows, alarm bells sound.

China is also rattling nations in its own region. Territorial disputes with the likes of Japan and the Philippines have made China’s neighbors nervous.

Meanwhile, the U.S. is pivoting its geo-strategic policy away from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to east Asia, strengthening key alliances and even boosting its military presence in the region — much to the consternation of Beijing.

Internal strife and external tensions — this is the China that Xi stands to inherit. Kevin Rudd, a former Australian Prime Minister and once a diplomat in Beijing, has met Xi and says he is a man “you can do business with.”

Yet Xi remains largely unknowable, a man who could disappear without explanation.

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Filed under: Beijing Consensus, Charm Offensive, Chinese Model, CNN, Collectivism, Communications, Culture, Democracy, Domestic Growth, Economics, Government & Policy, Influence, International Relations, New Leadership, Overseas Chinese, Peaceful Development, Politics, Public Diplomacy, Reform, Soft Power, Strategy, The Chinese Identity, The construction of Chinese and Non-Chinese identities, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

One Response

  1. Godfree Roberts says:

    To assert that Mr. Xi is a mystery is at best lazy and at worst an attempt to delegitimize him and his government.
    Xi was high profile on the day he was born and remained so through a long, distinguished, and well-reported public career. A career that was capped by marriage to the most famous woman in China and producing the Beijing Olympics.
    For a brief bio, see http://inpraiseofchina.blogspot.com/2012/08/xi-jinping-hero-for-china.html
    For a lengthy interview, see http://inpraiseofchina.blogspot.com/2012/10/xi-jinpings-first-interview.html

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