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"Technocrats" may be blocking accession of China's reform-minded president-in-waiting
Howard Richman, 9/14/2012

There appears to be a succession fight going on in China, as indicated by the disappearance from public view of its designated next president Xi Jinping shortly after his reform-minded intentions came to light. According to Malcolm Moore, writing on September 14 in The Telegraph (Xi Jinping 'under huge pressure' from inside the Communist party), the succession struggle is between the "red princelings" represented by Xi and the "technocrats" who currently run China under President Hu:

A new rift appears to have emerged between the two main factions in the Communist Party: the "red" princelings, the up-and-coming children of Communist Party heroes, and the technocrats.

Mr Xi is a princeling, while Mr Hu is a technocrat, although Mr Xi has been successful at bridging the divide. "Song Ping and the other elders are suspicious of Mr Xi and the other princelings because they are not obedient. They saw these princelings grow up and know the difference between them and Mr Hu and Wen Jiabao [China's premier], who are more polite and less personally ambitious".

Xi Jinping and his fellow "red princelings" may have angered the "technocrats" by their advocacy of economic and political reform. On September 7, a Reuters article by Chris Buckley (Exclusive: China president-in-waiting signals quicker reform - sources) began:

(Reuters) - China's president-in-waiting, Xi Jinping, has said the ruling Communist Party must embrace reform with fresh vigor to stave off social and economic malaise, sources said, citing accounts of comments he made at a meeting with a party reformer.

Xi met the prominent reformer, Hu Deping [a reform movement leader and fellow "red princeling" - son of party leader Hu Yaobang], in the past six weeks, the sources said, in a gesture intended to show he was listening to voices calling for not only faster economic liberalization but also a relaxation of political controls....

Xi's comments suggested that his priorities on taking over from President Hu Jintao would be to shore up China's slowing and maturing economy and to give a boost to private business with tax reductions and other incentives, said one source....

According to the Epoch Times (New Chinese Communist Leader May be Closet Reformist), such reformist talk tends to upset those who are currently running the country:

However, openly speaking about political reform is not good news for Xi, according to Wen Zhao, a political commentator for New Tang Dynasty Television.

“Xi’s opponents can use it as an excuse to portray him as someone who has a dangerous motive like Gorbachev, thereby urging more hardliners to oppose him.”

Wen is also not optimistic about Xi’s prospects for reform. “The reality in China is, politics and economics are controlled by vested interest groups. Any kind of substantial reform will run a great risk."

It is possible that the "red princelings" and the "technocrats" will reach an accommodation. In the meantime, the "technocrats" may be blocking Xi Jinping's accession to the presidency.

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Comment by Howard Richman, 9/16/2012:

I read some reports today:

1. Xi was supposedly photographed today at some agricultural college ceremony. He hasn't yet met with foreign ambassadors.

2. The big issue is not whether Xi becomes president, it is whether Hu or Xi will continue chair the Communist Party's military committee -- which has been the seat of power in China ever since the People's Liberation Army put down the Cultural Revolution and installed the technocrats in power. As head of the military committee, Teng was China's undisputed leader even though he was not president.

3. The military is currently being led by generals who are "red princelings" who may be behind today's anti-Japan demonstrations.

If all of these reports are true, the "red princelings" are not only reformers, but they also favor a more aggressive military posture.

 




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