And Now, China’s Election (Spoiler Alert)

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China's 18th Party Congress kicked off yesterday. Jiayang Fan summarizes:

At the end of the week, little that is not yet known will be made known. Xi Jinping will replace Hu Jintao as secretary-general of the Communist Party and Li Keqiang will take Premier Wen Jiabao’s seat as his successor. Two thousand two hundred and eighty delegates from all over the country will pour into the capital to listen to speeches and fill in assembly halls, but they will likely be as clueless as their 1.3 billion constituents about the hows and whys of the Xi ascendancy. 

Elizabeth Economy wonders whether Xi, like his predecessors, will fail to implement political and economic reforms:

Unfortunately for Xi, the Chinese people already appear to have an idea of what they want. A Global Times survey released just in time for the Party Congress reveals that 80 percent of Chinese advocates political reform; and more than 70 percent says Beijing needs to tackle healthcare, pensions, and social security in the next five years. What do people want most from political reform? According to the survey, they want more power to oversee the government for themselves and for the media.

She argues that even in a one-party state, Xi will face this mounting pressure:

The Chinese people can’t vote at the ballot box, but they do vote with their feet. The wealthiest flee the country. During Hu’s tenure, fully 27 percent of Chinese with at least $15 million in assets have emigrated and another 47 percent are considering it. They cite the quality of the educational system, the environment, health care, food safety and protection of assets as the drivers behind their desire to leave. The poorest Chinese, citing the same exact challenges, take to the streets to protest; and those protests now total more than 180,000 annually.

Kenneth Lieberthal doubts that Xi will enjoy much administrative clout:

[E]ven if Xi proves to be an ardent reformist (which is by no means clear), he may prove unable to move the system sufficiently in the directions he knows it must go. Wen has called for such changes for at least the past half decade, even as the system has in fact moved in the opposite direction. Success or even rapid progress here is far from assured.

The hurdles are high for Xi. Because he does not even get to pick most of the members of his own team, virtually no other Standing Committee member will owe his job solely to him — current and former members select the lineup of the new Standing Committee in order to achieve a balance among their interests. It may take an impending or actual major crisis, therefore, for Xi to garner the authority to drive through necessary but painful decisions.

(Image via Shanghaiist)