… and the rumor-mill is running in overdrive. Recent reports suggest that Shanghai Party Chief Xi Jinping’s (习近平) recent entry into the race – apparently at senior leader Zeng Qinghong’s (曾庆红) insistence – has shaken things up; forcing Hu Jintao to make some last-minute maneuvering.
The Jiang Zemin and the Hu Jintao camps both want their own guy to take over the top-job in 2012, and each are doing their best to make it happen. The latest inside dope can be found over at the Elite Chinese Politics and Political Economy blog, where Victor Shih points to report at the “semi-official” China News Service that Hu Jintao will not unilaterally appoint a successor. Instead, generational change will be decided in a “scientific manner”.
Just a week ago, Joseph Kahn at The New York Times was warning that if the Party elite did not find a way through the succession impasse: “Chinese politics could become more volatile in coming years, as interest groups form around rival contenders.” Now it seems that, at the eleventh hour, Hu is trying to work out a way to avoid any such unnecessary volatility. Of course, there is also something in it for him. As Victor Shih notes:
I think Hu is doing this out of political necessity. Essentially, since Xi Jinping is now the favorite to win the successor seat, Hu would rather enlarge the selectorate (i.e. “scientific”) and the pool of candidates. This way, at least Li Keqiang will have a fighting chance.
Li Datong, the former editor of Freezing Point foresaw the need for such a process in a piece for openDemocracy.net , just over a week ago. In that article, Li also laid out the possibility that such a process could turn out to be the “start of the democratisation of the Chinese Communist Party.” Combine that with the fact that leadership contenders Li and Xi both have some liberal cred in their respective backgrounds and the next 5 years could be very interesting indeed.
Or is it that when reading the tea-leaves, we only see what we want to see?
Photo of Great Hall of the People ceiling from Flickr user dunvegen’s photostream