Image credit: @nidduifardamha.
The dust has barely settled following the introduction of China’s fifth leadership generation and the analysis of what the make-up of the new Politburo Standing Committee (PBSC) means continues apace.
The New Yorker‘s Evan Osnos on Xi Jinping:
[Xi] is a ruddy-cheeked bear of a figure with a pomaded part to his hair, a rich radio voice, and a preference for the kind of roomy Western suits you expect on a regional sales rep. The full picture evokes Jackie Gleason more than Zhou Enlai. At rest, Xi wears a permanently placid half-smile that suggests confidence, even if his actual thoughts are unknowable at this point. Divining anything about Xi’s politics from his public persona is a mug’s game, but one thing is beyond doubt: he conveys an understanding of style that utterly eluded his predecessor, and an awareness that he will be judged more openly and mercilessly than any paramount Chinese leader before him. His citizens’ experience with technology, prosperity, and cynicism has forced him to confront a problem that is now more acute than his predecessors ever faced: he was never elected, but he must figure out a way to be liked.
Teddy Ng of the SCMP highlights the reshuffling of PBSC positions to favour new Premier Li Keqiang:
The position of premier in the Politburo Standing Committee hierarchy returns to No 2 in the new line-up, going back to an old practice dropped 15 years ago.
The positioning harks back to the 14th party congress, in 1992, when Li Peng, then premier, was ranked No 2 in the Politburo Standing Committee, right after then-general secretary Jiang Zemin.
However, at the next congress in 1997, Zhu Rongji , who would take over as premier in several months, was ranked third in the Politburo Standing Committee. The second spot still went to Li, who was poised to step down from the premiership and become NPC chairman. This arrangement reflected Li’s seniority. He had been on the Politburo Standing Committee for two terms, while Zhu had just been made a member.
Though Reuters‘ Jason Subler and John Ruwitch are sceptical of the new leadership’s appetite for reform, “pressures set to build over the next decade will likely force great change upon them”:
Thanks to the party’s success in overseeing rapid economic growth and lifting hundreds of millions out of poverty, Xi, Li and their deputies face a population more demanding and ready to rail against anything.
Ordinary Chinese have plenty to be upset about. Over 40 percent of the country’s rivers are severely polluted, by many estimates; China ranks near the bottom of some corruption indexes; and around 150 million migrant workers are denied welfare benefits in the cities in which they work because they have no residency rights there.
Those statistics illustrate one of the challenges of China’s rise. While growth has boosted incomes, the increased prosperity has led many people to be less willing to put up with the side-effects, and with what some see as a paternalistic approach by the leadership.
The party has earned its legitimacy with a broad swathe of the populace with rapid economic growth. However, growth has fallen for seven straight quarters, hitting 7.4 percent in the July-September period. Should growth falter further, discontent will rise.
Finally, WaPo‘s Olga Khazan highlights a hitherto overlooked crisis that the new leadership must attend to, water:
A map from research firm Maplecroft shows that four Chinese provinces are at “extreme risk” of lacking enough water. China contains only 7 percent of the world’s potable water but must feed almost 20 percent of the world’s population, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization.
In north and eastern China, home to Beijing, Tianjin and Shanghai, water use has outpaced supply, prompting the construction of the South-to-North Water Diversion Project, which aims to transfer water from the wet south to the dry north. However, others have said the water along the project’s path is so contaminated by pollution that it’s barely usable, even after treatment.