It’s official: China’s new Politburo Standing Committee

As predicted last week: the new Politburo Standing Committee of the Chinese Communist Party is as follows: 

  • Xi Jinping (习近平), who is expected to become the president of the People’s Republic of China, the general secretary of the Party and ‘paramount leader’, and a ‘princeling’ whose father was a Party dignitary;
  • Li Keqiang (李克强), who is expected to become premier;
  • Zhang Dejiang (张德江), a longtime hand who has served as Party secretary in Guangdong province and most recently, replaced disgraced Party figure Bo Xilai as Party secretary in Chongqing municipality — and also a ‘princeling’;
  • Yu Zhengsheng (俞正声), Party secretary in Shanghai municipality and a princeling as well;
  • Liu Yunshan (刘云山), director of the Party’s propaganda department (i.e., in charge of censorship and Internet restriction as well);
  • Wang Qishan (王岐山), a vice premier for economic, energy and financial affairs, and expected to play a major, reformist role in economic policy in Xi’s government; and
  • Zhang Gaoli (张高丽), currently the Party secretary of Tianjin municipality, and a former official in Shenzhen’s special economic zone.
 Suffragio‘s profiles of Xi and Li will come shortly, but in the meanwhile, you can read all about the five new members by clicking the links above.

The Politburo Standing Committee has been reduced from nine members to just seven.  Interestingly, the five new members (Xi and Li were already members) are relatively old — and so old that they will not be eligible for re-appointment in 2017 at the next National Congress because each will be older than the 67-year age limit for members of the committee.

Both Zhang Gaoli and Zhang Dejiang, as well as Yu Zhengsheng are firmly protégés of former president Jiang Zemin (江泽民), who preceded current president Hu Jintao (胡锦涛), who is stepping down to make way for Xi.

Left out are two key Hu allies: Li Yuanchao, currently director of the Party’s organization department, and Wang Yang, Party secretary in Guangdong province and perhaps the most notable advocate for political reform.

Liu Yandong, the only woman serving on the Politburo, also failed to make the cut.

As has been predicted in recent days, Xi will become the general secretary of the Party and will also immediately assume the chairmanship of the CPC Central Military Commission.

Xi is currently speaking to the press now, and his speaking style surely seems much more relaxed and expressive than Hu’s.

Today’s attack in Gaza and its effect on Israeli (and Middle Eastern) politics

First and foremost, it bears noting that civilians — including women and children — died today in Israel’s air strikes on Gaza and, whatever the merits, motivations or repercussions of that attack, our hearts — Jewish, Muslim, Christian, agnostic or otherwise — should cry for the loss of innocents in any military operation.

One of the motivating factors of my blog is to demonstrate that in so many places in the world, with so many viewpoints and cultural assumptions and worldviews, politics is a way of brokering policy decisions in a way that avoids violence — even in countries without democratic institutions or even much in the way of rule of law. 

So from that perspective, even if you think the world is a better place without Hamas’s Ahmed Jabari, who was killed in Israel’s attack today, it’s incredibly sad to see the continued failure of politics vis-a-vis Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

* * * * *

I have no interest in assigning blame in a conflict where both sides have used too much violence for far too long, despite strong and honestly held beliefs, and I have no idea how today’s Israeli attack on Gaza will play out (but I have a sad hunch), but it’s safe to say that with just over two months to go until Israel’s election campaign, it’s suspicious to see this kind of a wide attack on Gaza, the worst of its kind since Israel entered the Gaza Strip four years ago.

Even giving Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu the benefit of the doubt, today’s attack is bound to affect the election, scheduled for January 22.

Certainly, it helps Netanyahu’s reelection campaign, and it does so at a critical time when former Kadima leader Tzipi Livni and former prime minister Ehud Olmert were set to make a final decision about whether they would participate in the January 22 elections for the Knesset, Israeli’s unicameral parliament, and at a time when his Likud (הַלִּכּוּד‎) party’s formal 2013 election coalition with Yisrael Beitenu (ישראל ביתנו‎) has resulted in the jointly-merged coalition losing strength, not gaining.  As individual parties a month ago, they polled 40% to 45% cumulatively; the most recent poll shows Likud-Yisrael Beitenu at 36%, with their main rivals gaining — the Labor Party (מפלגת העבודה הישראלית‎) under Shelly Yachimovich polling 21%, and a new political party, Yesh Atid (יש עתיד‎) under popular former broadcaster Yair Lapid polling 15%.

We don’t know what exactly it means for Mohammed Morsi, the newly elected president of Egypt, only consolidating the reins of power in the Arab world’s largest country.  But Egypt has already recalled its ambassador from Tel Aviv, and Morsi’s aides are working to revise the 1979 peace treaty with Israel.  Morsi was the Muslim Brotherhood’s candidate during the presidential campaign.

The attack also puts the United States — and president Barack Obama, just eight days after his reelection — in a tougher spot than it would prefer.  Can you imagine what a Camp David-like peace accord would look like today, with Netanyahu on one side, Morsi on the other, who knows who would represent Hamas, and Obama and U.S. secretary of state Hillary Clinton trying to sort it all?

As Jeffrey Goldberg notes in real time in his blog at The Atlantic: Continue reading Today’s attack in Gaza and its effect on Israeli (and Middle Eastern) politics

First Past the Post: November 14

Independent South Korean presidential candidate Ahn Cheol-soo has ended talks with Democratic United Party nominee Moon Jae-in for a single merged candidacy.

Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte defends his newly-empowered government coalition.

A neo-Nazi party in Germany is taking its fight to the constitutional court.

NATO’s chief met with Georgian prime minister Bidzina Ivanishvili.

The Ghanian campaign season is heating up.

Pauline Marois and the Parti Québécois survived six confidence votes Wednesday.

FT Alphaville checks in on Portugal, post-Merkel visit.

Opinion on the recent Buenos Aires protests against Cristina Fernández de Kirchner.

Japan heads to snap elections on December 16

Sooner than expected, Japan is headed to the polls: prime minister Yoshihiko Noda (pictured above) announced today that he will dissolve Japan’s lower house of parliament, the Diet, on Friday, clearing the way for snap elections on December 16.

It seems very likely that the Liberal Democratic Party of Japan (LDP, or 自由民主党, Jiyū-Minshutō), which controlled the Diet from 1955 to 2009, will return to power, and former Japanese prime minister Shinzō Abe (安倍 晋三), who served exactly one year as prime minister from 2006 to 2007, seems likely to return for a rare second stint leading Japan’s government following his selection as the LDP’s leader in late September.

Noda said the dissolution will be contingent on the LDP’s support for a package of measures to issue deficit-covering bonds this week, but the LDP seemed likely to support that package in any event.

The election will affect at least a half-dozen key policy issues, including relations with China, Japan’s pacifist constitution, a controversial sales tax increase set to go into effect in 2014, the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement with other Asian countries and the United States, the future role of nuclear energy and fiscal policy in a country that’s seen low GDP growth since the 1980s.

Noda’s announcement was so striking because he needed to call an election only before August 2013, but currently, a record-high 64% of Japanese voters disapprove of his government, with just 18% approving.

Since the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ, or 民主党, Minshutō) took control of Japan’s parliament after the 2009 elections, things haven’t gone so well for them — the party has gone through three different prime ministers in three years. Continue reading Japan heads to snap elections on December 16

The role of women in the CCP: just so much ‘beautiful scenery’?

The 18th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party (中国共产党) concluded today, but the photo above comes from a plucky photo essay at China People’s Daily, entitled ‘Beautiful Scenery,’ and depicts 14 photos of women delighting at various moments during the Congress.

As stated in the slideshow: ‘beautiful ritual girls, female reporters and delegates to the Party congress become beautiful scenery during the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China.’

Hat tip goes to Kathleen McLaughin, who’s been keeping a daily diary of the Congress for Foreign Policy, and who argues that gender disparity in China is perhaps getting worse, not better:

While 521 women serve as delegates in this party congress — 23 percent of the total, up from 18 percent a decade ago and higher than the 20 percent that women make up in the U.S. Senate — the members of China’s ceremonial electorate have far less influence over the process than their U.S. counterparts.

Gender discrimination often seems to be getting worse in China: Although a large percentage of Chinese women are employed (70 percent, compared with 25 percent in India), urban Chinese women earn about 67 percent of what men make, according to a 2010 survey from the All-China Women’s Federation. This summer, women in Guangzhou shaved their heads in protest of growing discriminatory policies around the country that require girls to score higher than boys on college entrance exams.

The Party hasn’t historically been incredibly welcoming to women, and in its history, it has yet to elevate a single woman to the Politburo Standing Committee, the chief governing body of the Party (and, accordingly, the Chinese government).  The members of the Politburo Standing Committee are likely to be announced by the end of this week.

One woman with an outside chance of being named to the Politburo Standing Committee is Liu Yandong (刘延东), who’s been a member of the Politburo (the only woman currently serving on the Politburo) since 2007 and who has served as a state councilor since 2008.  Liu (pictured immediately above) is a ‘princeling,’ as her father is Liu Ruilong, a former vice minister of agriculture, and she’s been close to outgoing Chinese leader Hu Jintao (胡锦涛) for three decades — notably, they worked together with the Party’s youth league in the 1980s.     Continue reading The role of women in the CCP: just so much ‘beautiful scenery’?

Fifth Generation: Who is Wang Qishan?

This is the fifth in a series of posts examining the Chinese leaders expected to be named to the Politburo Standing Committee during the 18th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party (中国共产党) that kicked off November 8.  Prior installments on Zhang Gaoli here, Zhang Dejiang here, Liu Yunshan here and Yu Zhengsheng here.

Of all the potential new members of the Politburo Standing Committee, no one has a more assured spot than Wang Qishan (王岐山), who is expected to be the economic policy supremo of the next generation of leadership of the People’s Republic of China.

The only question is whether he’ll be elevated to executive vice premier under the likely new PRC premier, Li Keqiang (李克强), which had seemed likelier earlier in the summer and autumn, but now seems more uncertain, according to party sources.

The Congress concluded on Wednesday, with the Politburo Standing Committee members to be named today or tomorrow.

Wang, age 64, has served as the vice premier for economic, energy and financial affairs since 2007, when he became a Politburo member as well.

Previously, from 1989 to 1997, he was vice governor, then governor of the China Construction Bank, one of the world’s largest banks and indeed one of the world’s largest corporations.  As vice governor of Guangdong province in 2007, he was instrumental in the liquidation of the Guangdong International Trust and Investment Company, which, according to Robert Lawrence Kuhn in How China’s Leaders Think, signaled to the world that China was serious about developing market mechanisms that could bring discipline to the financial sector.

As such, he developed keen ties with former leader Jiang Zemin (江泽民), but his real patron among the older leadership is Jiang’s former premier, Zhu Ronghi (朱镕基), who, before his elevation to the premiership in 1998, served as vice premier and as the governor of China’s central bank (Wang served a brief stint as vice governor there as well).

Wang served as the Party chairman of Hainan province — the tropical island at the south of the Chinese mainland that stylizes itself as China’s Hawaii — from 2002 to 2003.  Hainan is, itself, an interesting story of Chinese internal growth — formerly part of Guangdong province until 1988, China’s leaders separated Hainan as its own province and designated it a ‘special economic area.’  Despite being seen as something of an economic backwater for centuries, its economy has grown in leaps and bounds, even by Chinese standards, in the past decade, and China hopes to transform it into an international tourism destination within the next decade.

He thereupon served as the mayor of Beijing from 2003 to 2007 and handled much of the preparation for the city’s hosting of the 2008 Summer Olympics.

Kuhn reports that Wang is a humorous and sophisticated rising star:

When the Olympics was approaching, a distinguished American financier asked for [Wang’s] business card.  “You won’t need my card,” Wang, then Beijing mayor, said with a smile. “If the Olympics is successful,” he joked, “I’ll be too high to help you — and if it’s not successful, I won’t have a phone!”

Wang, perhaps more than Li, China’s current ‘paramount leader,’ president and Party general secretary Hu Jintao (胡锦涛) or the expected new Chinese leader, Xi Jinping (习近平), is at ease with the international media — check out his interview with U.S. secretary of state Tim Geithner and Charlie Rose.  So Wang will likely have a major role to play in U.S. foreign relations as well, especially given the key economic issues involved in the U.S.-China relationship.

Named to the Time 100 in 2009, Wang was greeted with glowing praise from former U.S. treasury secretary Henry Paulson: Continue reading Fifth Generation: Who is Wang Qishan?