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Office of Research Issue Focus Foreign Media Reaction

September 22, 2004

September 22, 2004

CHINA LEADERSHIP TRANSITION: 'HU'S ON FIRST'

 

KEY FINDINGS

 

**  Jiang's "graceful resignation" means President Hu is China's "undisputed leader."

**  Hu now must face China's many "daunting problems."

**  On the Taiwan issue, Hu has little "room to maneuver."  

**  Papers hope Hu can generate a "fresh political wind" in Chinese politics.

 

MAJOR THEMES

 

'A new age of leadership'--  Outlets praised Jiang's resignation as military chairman as part of the gradual transition to China's "fourth generation" of leaders, who are "more flexible and pragmatic."  Hong Kong's independent Standard labeled Hu and his colleagues "less ideological" in their policy.  Numerous dailies said the leadership transition granted China a "new-found level of political stability" that showed the "maturity of its political system."  The official China Daily hailed the "smoothest leadership transition" in Chinese history as a "turning point" that "delighted the whole nation" in light of Hu's "refreshing people-first work style." 

 

'A poisoned chalice'--  Since China is "one of the most inegalitarian nations in the world" due to "regional economic disparities," papers identified "balanced development" as Hu's main challenge.  Japan's moderate Yomiuri stressed the "wealth gap between China's economically vibrant coastal regions and its still poor interior."  Other papers warned that "bitter resentment" with widespread "poverty of absolute despair" could "profoundly shake" Communist rule.  Meanwhile, the conservative Australian wondered how Hu can "engineer a soft landing from skyrocketing...economic growth," and Germany's left-of-center Frankfurter Rundschau cited "rampant" corruption and a "paralyzing bureaucracy" as other issues Hu faces.

 

Taiwan policy 'will not change'--  Regional observers concluded Hu will "maintain Jiang's hardline policy" towards Taiwan to secure his "grip on the military."  Hong Kong's mass-circulation Apple Daily News explained that whether Hu "wants to buy the support of the military...or win public support, he cannot...adopt a milder Taiwan policy."  Taiwan dailies predicted less "hawkish posturing" by Hu but warned against "unrealistic expectations"; pro-independence Liberty Times advised against being "deluded or appeased by the reshuffle."  Korean outlets alleged that Beijing even under Hu "is still fighting to win hegemony"; left-leaning Hankyoreh Shinmun saw efforts to "revive the Sinocentrism of the past." 

 

A 'potential opportunity'--  A few writers saw "some hope" in Hu's elevation, as political reform might be "easier to start" under his "post-war technocrat generation."  But most viewed the transition's "secrecy and stonewalling" as proof that Hu is committed to the Communist Party's "eternal rule."  Austria's independent Der Standard added that Beijing is "neither capable of nor ready for internal party reforms and transparency."  Other papers noted the difficulty of "controlling the speed of democratization" while maintaining "political and economic stability"; India's centrist Telegraph doubted Hu can "walk the razor's edge" between centralized power and "enormous" economic growth with its "inevitable drive towards openness and reform."

 

Prepared by Media Reaction Branch (202) 203-7888, rmrmail@state.gov

 

EDITOR:  Ben Goldberg

 

EDITOR'S NOTE:  Media Reaction reporting conveys the spectrum of foreign press sentiment.  Posts select commentary to provide a representative picture of local editorial opinion.  Some commentary is taken directly from the Internet.  This report summarizes and interprets foreign editorial opinion and does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Government.  This analysis was based on 41 reports from 15 countries over 17 - 22 September 2004.  Editorial excerpts are listed from the most recent date.

 

ASIA-PACIFIC

 

CHINA:  "Undisputed Leader"

 

The official English-language China Daily declared (9/20):  "Hu Jintao has become the undisputed leader of China... with the departure of former President Jiang Zemin from his top military post - giving a new generation a freer hand to run the world's most populous nation."

 

"Smooth Leadership Transition Acclaimed"

 

Yan Xizao commented in the official English-language China Daily (9/19):  "Former Chairman Jiang Zemin's graceful resignation from the Communist Party of China's Central Military Commission on Sunday determined he would be remembered with respect, in this country and beyond.  From both the lasting standing ovation he received from participants of the Fourth Plenum of the Party's 16th Central Committee, and tributes from his successor, Hu Jintao, the appreciation and gratitude were obvious.  Jiang's resignation was not only a respectable finale for his personal political career, but also a perfect finishing touch to what has been the smoothest leadership transition in modern China....  Most important of all, Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao have charmed the nation with a refreshing people-first work style. Their populist approach will turn out to be a precious political asset for the new leadership....  Hu Jintao's assumption of the post of the Party's military chief at the just-finished Party plenum has strengthened his status as the core of a new-generation leadership.  The consensus at the Party's decision-making level, as evident throughout the plenum's communiqué, is no less significant....  Such congruence between the old and new generation leadership is essential. It dispelled misgivings about possible policy reversals which are common at leadership changes.  In this sense, Hu Jintao and his colleagues have inherited from their predecessors an ideal platform, from where they can fly higher."

 

CHINA (HONG KONG SAR):  "Taiwan Must Absolutely Not Harbor Wishful Thinking"

 

Mass-circulation Chinese-language Apple Daily News remarked (9/21):  "Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian yesterday responded to a question regarding Jiang Zemin's decision to step down as chairman of the Central Military Commission.  Chen said that although Hu Jintao had taken over power from Jiang Zemin to become China's military leader, Taiwan must not harbor any wishful thinking regarding the change nor unrealistic expectations on Hu Jintao.  Though Chen does not have a good understanding of national, political and personnel conditions in China, his response this time was practical and proper.  This is because Hu Jintao does not have much room to maneuver regarding cross-strait policy and the issue of Taiwanese independence.  He will not violate the policy laid down by Deng Xiaoping....  Furthermore, opposing Taiwan independence and upholding China's cross-strait policy is not just the stance of the military; this view is shared senior officials of the Chinese Communist Party and a large number of Chinese people.  Reviewing comments and messages on mainland websites, one can clearly see general public opinion.  In other words, regardless of whether Mr. Hu wants to buy the support of the military, unite senior officials in the Party, or win public support, he cannot at this time abandon China's Taiwan policy nor grant any significant concession nor adopt a milder Taiwan policy."

 

"The Change Of Chairman Of The Central Military Commission Will Not Alter The Direction Of Unification"

 

Pro-PRC Chinese-language Hong Kong Commercial Daily judged (9/21):  "The general opinion is that Hu Jintao will follow Jiang's tradition in his cross-strait relations.  In the short run, it is unlikely that cross-strait relations will take a sudden turn.  On the issue of 'Taiwan independence,' Hu will be tough....  The biggest threat to peace in the Taiwan Strait is the escalation of 'Taiwan independence' activities.  If Chen miscalculates the situation, makes a reckless move and stirs up a major incident of 'Taiwan independence,' it won't matter who is in power.  He will not hesitate to strike back at any cost.  We hope Chen will not underestimate the determination of the Chinese people and the Chinese leadership to oppose Taiwan independence.  We hope that Chen will not jeopardize the happiness of 23 million Taiwanese people."

 

"Routine Transition"

 

Pro-PRC Ta Kung Pao contended (9/20):  "This will further promote the systemization, normalization and routinization of the transition between old and new generations of leaders."

 

"Promote Reform"

 

Independent, Chinese-language Ming Pao Daily News held (9/20):  "Now, after Jiang Zemin, Hu Jintao has become another leader controlling the party, the government and the military. We hope he can take full advantage of his powerful position and high popularity among the public and, apart from strengthening the Chinese Communist Party's governing capacity, do his best to promote the reform of the political system so as to make it compatible with China's economic and social transformation.

 

"Less Ideological"

 

The English-language independent Standard noted (9/20):  "The decision of the 78-year-old Jiang to step down marks another move in the transition to a less ideological and more pragmatic generation of leaders... Jiang's departure means that Hong Kong will no longer be a pawn in the battle between the Hu and Jiang camps, as it has been for more than a year."

 

"Implications For Hu"

 

Yu Bin wrote in the English-language independent Standard (9/17):  "Politicking has more to do with policy issues than key personnel changes.  Jiang Zemin may well turn over his command of the Chinese military in the 16th Chinese Communist Party (CCP) plenary session, just as he yielded his Communist Party chairmanship to Hu Jintao in late 2002 and the state presidency in March last year. Or he may choose to fade away over a few more years. Whatever way Jiang goes, and he eventually will go, the PLA's future top civilian leader, presumably Hu, will have to operate against the backdrop of Jiang's People's Liberation Army legacies and popularity.  This has a number of implications.  First, Hu himself will have to nurture his own relationship with the PLA....  Second, the process for Hu to assume the PLA's new civilian leadership already started at least five years ago, when Hu became a vice-chairman of the CMC. Ever since then, Hu has been part of the team, though still in Jiang's shadow. Hu's elevation to the No 2 position in the CMC was more than a procedural and symbolic promotion....  The current dual-centre of politics, with Hu as the party/state leader and Jiang as the PLA boss may not be desirable for timely and efficient decision making....  Third, it remains to be seen if the unfinished handover of the CMC chairmanship to Hu would spill over into other policy areas. Hu and his new premier and ally Wen Jiabao quickly established themselves as a kinder and gentler fourth generation of leaders tilting toward the less fortunate groups in China.  This is in contrast with Jiang's merit-based and market-driven approach favouring the political, business and intellectual elites....  Hu's more 'compassionate' public policy, however, is a timely and healthy balancing move, as China is fast becoming one of the most inegalitarian nations in the world....  Fourth and finally, it's common sense that leadership crises in China usually occur in times of socio-political upheaval....  Jiang and Hu may have disputes over some specific issues, but perhaps they have more in common when it comes to maintaining China's steady and rational economic growth, as well as social stability.  The only possible source of crisis, therefore, may come from the highly sensitive and increasingly dangerous issue of Taiwan's independence....  If this is the case, the policies of Jiang or Hu will largely be driven by the perception of a sharply deteriorating cross-strait situation in that Taiwan is fast becoming a grave threat to China's core national interests."

 

TAIWAN:  "We Cannot Be Intoxicated, Deluded, Or Appeased By The Reshuffle"

 

Pro-independence Liberty Times commented (9/22):  "As a matter of fact, Hu Jintao is the kind of political figure who would insist on his principles but is very flexible in his strategies.  Superficially, he appears open-minded.  However, under his leadership Taiwan is going to face a more serious threat than under those stiff and unreasonable Chinese leaders in the past.  In other words, after Hu takes a hold of all power, he is likely to delude the Taiwan people because of [his] more subtle united-front measures and better propaganda techniques while his Taiwan policy remains unchanged....  It remains to be seen whether he will resort to nationalist sentiment to provoke a cross-Strait crisis in order to divert the [Chinese people's] attention from domestic problems.  We should never relax our vigilance. In short, unless China gives up the use of military forces against Taiwan, there is absolutely no [qualitative] difference...between Chinese leaders.  Taiwan has to rely on itself for national security. To place any hope on Hu is like asking a tiger for its skin, which can only lead to self-destruction."

 

"No Thaw Likely Until Spring"

 

The pro-independence English-language Taipei Times editorialized (9/21):  "The Chinese Communist Party's third generation leader Jiang Zemin resigned as chairman of the Central Military Commission at the Fourth Plenary Session of the party's Central Committee.  This move put an end to his leadership and will enable his successor, Chinese President Hu Jintao, to take full control of the party, administration, and military....  Does this mean that Hu's time has arrived?  It is still too early to say.  Hu's rise has been shrouded in mystery....  With Hu's replacement of Jiang, will there be a policy change?  In the short term, Hu is unlikely to modify Jiang's policies too much.   Beijing will continue to stay on good terms with the U.S.  Not challenging Washington, it will however embrace policies that increase its presence and influence in the Asia-Pacific region and globally....  The country's continued economic development will inevitably force Hu to downplay the intimidating force China represents.  Hu's use of strategies is expected to be more flexible since he now does not need to worry as much about pressure from hawks in the military....  Now that Jiang has lost direct control over cross-strait politics, such hawkish posturing as the threat of invasion and 'a timetable for unification' might be reined in.  But China's policy to Taiwan will not change.  China will continue to constrain Taiwan's freedom of movement on the international stage, and engage in the same verbal and military threats....  Hu has not departed from the authoritarian tendencies of communist party rule.  Taiwan must not make the mistake of having unrealistic expectations of the new generation of leaders simply because Hu is younger and more flexible than Jiang....  Taiwan recognizes that Hu is now established in power, but any thaw in the cross-strait relationship will probably have to wait till spring next year."

 

"The Impact Of Jiang Zemin 'Withdrawal Mechanism' On Chinese Power Ethics"

 

Conservative, pro-unification United Daily News said (9/20):  "Jiang Zemin's resignation from China's Central Military Commission may be a small step for Jiang because he has to retire sooner or later; but it is a big step for Chinese Communist political culture and power ethics.  Some have viewed this [step] as the result of the 'Jiang-Hu power struggle.' That may be an anti-communist cliché. In fact, Jiang and Hu obviously have had a tacit understanding. Jiang believes it is better for him to retire earlier than later in terms of setting a precedent for power ethics....  And Hu helped Jiang to realize his intention so that Jiang can leave a record for history.  For the Chinese military and the Chinese Communist Party, Jiang's stepping down will temporarily resolve the struggle over 'Whether the party should command the gun or the gun should command the party.' There will be a power reshuffle in the Chinese military leadership....  Now that obstacles within the party are resolved, it will be easier to start political reforms with a focus on the government's ruling system.  For the current unclear cross-Strait relations, Jiang's retirement will certainly bring new issues....  Jiang was still the highest decision-maker for Taiwan affairs for the past year and more. In the future, Hu will take over entirely. What new thinking he will have and what new measures he will take, and whether Jiang has left any wise advice for him, may well define the general direction of future developments with regard to cross-Strait relations."

 

"Power Transfer In Zhong Nan Hai; [China's Taiwan Policy] Will Be Tight Rather Than Loose?"

 

Wang Ming-yi maintained in centrist, pro-status quo China Times (9/20):  "Regardless if Jiang's expression of his willingness to retire is due to personal health reasons, political pressure, or his intention to complete a historical mission, for Hu Jintao, this is only the beginning for solidifying his power basis. In the short-term, China's Taiwan policy will certainly still be directed by 'Jiang's Eight Points.' Whether Hu will reformulate the guidelines for Taiwan policy, the 10th anniversary of 'Jiang's Eight Points' in January 2005 will be a critical time to re-examine [Hu's actions].  After Hu has taken over all of China's party, government and military powers, he will definitely and inevitably dominate China's policy toward Taiwan. However, the effectiveness of the 'Hu-Wen system' in its work toward Taiwan will still be decided by internal and external factors. Internally, members of Jiang's faction will play a restrictive role in the Chinese Communist Political Bureau. Externally, there are the complicated interactions between the United States, China, and Taiwan. Even though Hu's staff in charge of Taiwan affairs believe that the fourth-generation of Chinese leaders will be more flexible and pragmatic in their policy thinking, the development of cross-Strait relations will not depend only on the policy thinking of Zhong Nan Hai [i.e. the Chinese leadership]."

 

"Potential Opportunity For Change"

 

The English-language pro-independence Liberty Times opined (9/20):  "What will the "core" of the fourth generation, Hu Jintao, be like? So long as he hasn't turned his position into actual power, so long as Jiang is still around, people won't be able to know whether or not he has got any "new thoughts". However, after all, there is now a potential opportunity for change in Chinese politics. Maybe it represents some hope."

 

AUSTRALIA:  ".As China Moves To More Of The Same"

 

The liberal Melbourne-based Age remarked (9/22):  "The latest change in the Chinese Communist Party leadership promises no new thinking. For all of China's official policy of economic openness over the past 25 years, its politics remain deeply mysterious to outsiders. The arcane workings of the Chinese Communist Party's central committee remain pretty much a guessing game even to the most well-informed and best-connected outside observers....  The removal of Mr Jiang from all formal positions of power means Mr Hu is now more able to impose his so far fairly colorless stamp on the Chinese leadership, a process that involves the rewarding of loyalty and the largesse of patronage not entirely unfamiliar in other political systems. The question exercising the minds of Sinologists is whether this first bloodless transition of China's leadership since the Communists came to power in 1949 will actually make any difference."

 

"Jiang On The Outer Now Hu's On First"

 

The national conservative Australian stated (9/21):  "Political transition in China happens in secrecy behind closed doors, not via the ballot box. But the remarkable thing about the final transfer of full authority from former leader Jiang Zemin, who held the presidency between 1989 and 2003, to his anointed successor Hu Jintao was its smoothness: this is the first time power has passed in China without blood on the floor since the establishment of the communist state in 1949....  Difficult as it is to read any likely policy consequences into the shift from Mr. Jiang to Mr. Hu--we do not even know for sure if they belonged to the same, or different factions--we can certainly welcome this new-found level of political stability in our region's economic and strategic powerhouse....  The key issues facing Mr. Hu are the recent emergence of a more combative and independence-minded Taiwan, the democracy movement in Hong Kong, North Korea's nuclear ambitions and how China's leadership can engineer a soft landing from skyrocketing levels of economic growth. In none of these areas is it clear whether Mr. Hu's settings will be more liberal or conservative than Mr. Jiang's. What is clear, however, now Mr. Hu controls the army as well as the rest of the Government, is that China speaks with one voice."

 

JAPAN:  "Hu Must Overcome Jiang's Negative Legacy"

 

Moderate, leading Yomiuri asserted (9/21):  "Will the resignation of former Chinese President Jiang Zemin from the top job in China's military end what can be seen as a dual power structure in that country?....  Jiang's departure may signify a complete leadership transition to a younger generation led by Hu and Prime Minister Wen Jiabao.  The handover of power could give fresh impetus to Hu's pursuit of policies and goals unknown to an older generation of Chinese leaders....  However, Jiang has left Hu with a poisoned chalice. During the 15 years of Jiang's rule, China saw exceedingly high economic growth. However, the nation's rapid rise has produced profound ill effects.  This can be seen in the wealth gap between China's economically vibrant coastal regions and its still poor interior areas....  The abuse of power by corrupt party leaders and bureaucrats also has become widespread, incurring bitter resentment from the public.  These are serious problems that could profoundly shake the Communist Party's rule....  The Communist Party is increasingly concerned about the alienation of ordinary Chinese from the party and the growing frustration felt by the public, and a decline in the party's ability to rule the nation....  There are numerous problems to be tackled by the new Chinese leadership led by Hu and Wen.  Another important task facing them is deciding what policy China should take toward Japan.  During his reign as party chief, Jiang initiated powerful anti-Japanese propaganda....  His anti-Japanese campaign was pervasive--not only in educational and social activities, but also in the media....  The anti-Japanese sentiment brewed among the Chinese by Jiang places a burden on Hu as he seeks to improve ties with Japan....  Jiang may remain influential among China's military. Hu's rise to the top position in the military, preceded by his ascent to party chief and president, is just the beginning of a battle over Jiang's negative legacy.  We hope Jiang's resignation will lead to a change in Beijing's foreign policy toward Tokyo. Hu's success in this regard--or lack of it--will provide a yardstick to measure whether he has been able to...escape Jiang's influence."

 

"Hu Bears Heavy Responsibility For China's Future"

 

Liberal Asahi said (9/20):  "With the resignation of Jiang Zemin as chairman of the Central Military Commission, China has entered a new age of leadership.  Jiang's grip on the top military post even after Hu Jintao was inaugurated two years ago led to the creation of 'two power centers' within Chinese politics.  Hu will now finally be able to exercise full leadership.  Policies adopted by President Hu and Prime Minister Wen to help millions of poor people living in rural areas and to open party discussions to the public have been widely welcomed by the Chinese people.  Growing public support for such policies is said to have prompted Jiang's resignation.  The new generation, however, faces difficult issues such as the disparity between developed and undeveloped regions and the eradication of official corruption.  Controlling the speed of democratization, however, is the most pressing task for the new leadership.  On foreign policy, Beijing is likely to be cooperative in maintaining relations with the U.S.  Hu has expressed his willingness to promote stable relations with Japan and has also taken a positive stance toward the six-party talks.  Taiwan, however, presents an area of worry.  China has been nervous about Taipei's moves to seek independence since Chen Shui-bian was reelected as president earlier this year.  We hope President Hu will manage China, which is now a major political and economic power, in a cool-headed manner."

 

"Beijing Should Use Resignation To Review Domestic And Foreign Policies"

 

Business-oriented Nihon Keizai editorialized (9/20):  "Jiang Zemin's resignation has finally given full-fledged power to President Hu.  We welcome the fact that the transfer of power from the old generation to the new has strengthened Hu's political basis.  The new generation must eliminate problems such as official corruption and regional economic disparities in order to maintain long-term development.  Japan and China should use the departure of Jiang, who often held anti-Japanese views, as an opportunity to rescue their 'cooled' relations.  Prime Minister Koizumi should reexamine his visits to Yasukuni Shrine.  Likewise, the Beijing government should review its Jiang-led anti-Japanese education." 

 

"New China"

 

Commentator Hayashi argued on official TV broadcaster NHK (9/20):  "Jiang Zemin's midterm resignation as the chairman of the Central Military Commission signals China's departure from the old political system....  Hu Jintao's patience and tactful diplomacy over the past two years have earned him the trust of retired military generals, prompting other Beijing officials to favor the president over Jiang and his protégés, the so-called Shanghai faction....  Now that Hu has assumed the last formal position of power, the Chinese leader should use his skills to fight corruption in the government, control resistance forces in the military, and close the disparity between the nation's rich and the poor."

 

"Need For Close Eye On Future Power Struggle In China"

 

Conservative Sankei editorialized (9/20):  "Jiang Zemin's resignation has given full power to President Hu.  However, we are concerned about the concentration of power in one leader.  Although efforts by President Hu and Prime Minister Wen to address economic disparities are welcomed, reform of the one-party system is vital in dealing with the power struggle among government officials concerned about development in their own regions."

 

INDONESIA:  "Chinese Leadership Regeneration Is Over"

 

Independent, leading Kompas declared (9/20):  "It seems that the processes of the Chinese leadership regeneration which started in the past year were completed last weekend. Jiang Zemin, who was seen as the personifier and leader of his generation, was certain to resign from his last post as chief of Central Military Commission....  The concentration of posts on Hu has not raised any upheaval at all because this has thus far become the pattern of power management in China."

 

SINGAPORE:  "'Wise' For Jiang To Relinquish Control Of Military Now"

 

Ching Cheong wrote in the pro-government Straits Times (9/20):  "China's former strongman Jiang Zemin has done his country and himself a great service by agreeing to step down completely....  He relinquished his last but most powerful post...thereby rectifying the abnormal situation of an ordinary party member holding the country's supreme military power.  The move delighted the whole nation....  Many even claimed this was a turning point in the CCP's history....  What makes his decision even more laudable is that he did not appear to have asked for a quid pro quo....  At the national level, Mr Jiang's resignation removes the potentially destabilising factor of having two power centres, which could give rise to a fierce, perhaps even bloody, power struggle....  Jiang's move is laudable because it represents a concrete step towards ending lifelong tenure, a problem common to any communist regime....  Thus the trend towards ending lifelong tenure is irreversible. This is more significant than any talk of political reform, which until now has remained just that--talk.  Although there are signs the power struggle carried on right to the eleventh hour, Mr Jiang did, in the end, resign.  It remains to be seen how Mr Hu, now in supreme command, can further people's wishes for more substantial political reform."

 

SOUTH KOREA:  "Hu As Military Chief"

 

The independent English-language Korea Herald declared (9/21):  "Watching Hu Jintao take over from Jiang Zemin as chairman of China's Central Military Commission...two things come to our mind. The concentration of power in Beijing could somehow lead China to more active participation in regional security affairs, such as the North Korean nuclear problem, while a more assertive stance could be expected in its relations with neighbors....  Words from Beijing's leadership now with more consolidated power will have greater weight on Pyongyang officials as China pushes a multilateral process to solve the nuclear issue....  The power transition through the fourth plenum of the 16th Central Committee looked notably orderly, indicating irreversible evolution of the political mechanism in China. For the first time in Chinese Communist history, succession was made without the purge of a rival....  The whole process is still somewhat hazy and there was a hint of pressure on the old leader from the younger elite for an early departure, but it looks like a transparent leadership contest within the party may not be too far away....  Hu will have to maintain Jiang's hardline policy against Taiwan's 'independence' moves in order to fasten his grip on the military.  In the long run, however, the fourth generation Chinese leadership will have to seek a more pragmatic way in tackling the Taiwan question."

 

"Hopes And Concerns For Hu's China"

 

Nationalist, left-leaning Hankyoreh Shinmun asserted (9/21):  "Hu Jintao...has now also assumed the chairmanship of the Central Military Commission....  He has control of the party, the government, and the military. It was the smoothest power succession yet....  The Chinese people have high expectations for Hu Jintao and the 4th generation. These are pragmatists who have come of age knowing decades of policies that are about reform and openness. Their first priority will be continuing the unprecedented rise in national strength...maintaining friendly relations with important nations while concentrating on the economy. When the national interest is at stake, they will likely place more importance on practical benefit than on moral cause. That could influence relations with the US, Taiwan, and Japan, as well as the six-way talks on the North Korean nuclear issue....  China's 4th generation of leadership is seen as being full of confidence on the one hand, but it also known to demonstrate nationalist tendencies. It is being expressed an attempt to revive the Sinocentrism of the past and establish a new order with China at the center....  Also a variable are the ever-serious gaps and political wishes of China's different regions and classes. If those conflicts aren't smoothed out with balanced development and political reform, the effects could be felt across East Asia....  China will be our largest trading partner for a significant time to come. A quick adjustment to government by Hu will be good also for Korea."

 

"Some Thoughts On Korea While Observing China" 

 

Conservative Chosun Ilbo held (9/20):  "With Chinese President Hu Jintao taking over the chairmanship of the Central Military Committee, the Chinese leadership has been completely transferred to the post-war technocrat generation....  China...steadily pursuing its economic goals of...emerging...as the sole competitor of the U.S., has fashioned the foundation of political stability on account of smooth power transfer....  But China faces daunting problems. Bubbles from overheated business condition, discrepancies between the coast and inland and between urban and rural regions, rigidity of the monolithic Communist Party system, and the future of ethnic minorities may hobble China. China has managed to reach its present stage because its leaders have set a clear-cut path for the country, displayed a leadership rallying the population along the path, and exercised capabilities of adjusting those difficult issues.  It was only over a decade ago that we looked at the emerging economy of China with relaxation. But South Korea today has fallen behind China to an extent the GDP, foreign capital inflow and exports of a province of China exceed those of South Korea....  China has poured state attention and resources into nourishing able manpower and achieving economic growth. On the contrary, our country has been engaged in wasteful debates....  As a result, downward standardization prevails....  China has achieved a benign circle in which leaders lead development, the development fosters a sense of confidence among the people, and the fostered sense of confidence is linked to further development. On the other hand, we are yet to be freed from the chain of a vicious circle of conflicts....  Our leadership's illusions and misunderstandings become more evident when we observe China's fostering of future-oriented leadership without harming the past, present and future plans." 

 

"A Positive Move In China"

 

Independent Joong-Ang Ilbo opined (9/20):  "Jiang Zemin left his post as chairman of the military council of the Chinese Communist Party on Sunday, and Chinese President Hu Jintao will take over the position.  A new era in China has begun. The world is positively viewing this change in China's governing circle. China's politics will become more predictable and modernized, as its economy has done.  China has grown rapidly, but the politics of the country has been unpredictable and marred with conspiracy....  Such skepticism, however, ended with the recent bloodless handover of governing power, a rare incident in China's modern history.  We cannot expect that Mr. Hu's China will take a more moderate path than Mr. Jiang's China in the international arena....  China will unlikely show appeasement gestures in issues associated with Taiwan, Tibet and human rights in Hong Kong.  The new generation of leaders of China, however, will show a clearly different view toward the world....  We have high expectations of China's healthy contribution to the international community economically as well as politically and diplomatically....  Furthermore, China has shown a responsible attitude as a regional superpower in the initiatives of economic cooperation of Northeast Asian countries and the Asean regional security forum.  China, however, is still fighting to win hegemony in the region, as we have seen in the recent history dispute based on a new form of Chinese centralism."

 

THAILAND:  "Hu's China Keeps The Momentum"

 

The lead editorial in the independent, English-language Nation read (9/21):  "What China should do is provide assurances to countries in East and Southeast Asia that it will not wage war across the Taiwan Strait.  In this regard, Hu must depart from Jiang's tough stand, which has shaken the entire region.  Hu can make a fresh start to ensure regional peace and stability....  But Beijing must become more proactive on the issue of Taiwan to win the confidence of the international community....  It is important that the leaders of China and Taiwan step back from the brink, reduce tensions and perhaps even meet with each other to discuss their differences.  Without a summit between the leaders, their intentions cannot be properly evaluated and will remain unpredictable.  Meanwhile, just as the economies of China and Taiwan have become intertwined, so should person-to-person contacts.  The rest of Asia, and indeed the international community, is watching Hu's China and its future direction closely."

 

SOUTH ASIA

 

INDIA:  "Change Of Guard"

 

The Bangalore-based left-of-center Deccan Herald declared (9/22):  "Former Chinese President Jiang Zemin's relinquishing of his last official position as head of the country's Central Military Commission paves the way for President Hu Jintao to consolidate his position as China's paramount leader.  Jiang's exit marks the end of a leadership transition that began in 2002....  The chances of Beijing agreeing to more democratic reform and improving relations with Hong Kong and Taiwan seem to have brightened with Hu at the helm. There are also expectations that China under Hu just might match its growing economic profile with a more assertive global peace-keeping role.  Any changes that are likely to occur in China's policies will, however, be subtle rather than dramatic. In a system such as China's where decision-making and even leadership is collective, a single man is unlikely to be able to reverse the direction of his predecessor's policies. Besides, Jiang continues to remain an important power centre.  His influence in the decision-making bodies remains significant. At least five of the nine members of the politburo are Jiang loyalists and the senior ranks of the armed forces are also packed with generals who owe their rise to Jiang.  These sections can be expected to challenge Hu if his policies mark a radical departure from those of Jiang's."

 

"Who's Hu" 

 

The Kolkata-based centrist English-language Telegraph editorialized (9/21):  "Important changes are not always revolutions. The one that has just taken place in China affects the highest level of leadership in that vast country of epic changes. But there is also a certain staged naturalness about the transition....  Jiang took the helm of the world's most populous country in the wake of the Tiananmen Square killings. China was then a virtual pariah state. But by the time he had handed the presidency over to Hu, China had become the fastest-growing economy in the world as well as a military power to be reckoned with....  The ruthless suppression of dissent has always been an important priority for the Chinese Communist Party. Its latest move towards a centralized collective leadership fits this abiding preoccupation....  Taiwan might demand a different order of readiness and toughness from the Chinese army--numerically the world's biggest and with a rapidly progressing modernization campaign. For Hu, maintaining Jiang's tough stand against Taiwan will also be a way of addressing the U.S., which is treaty-bound to intervene on behalf of the rebel island. But Hu's greatest challenge would be to walk the razor's edge between the consolidation of leadership...the maintenance of China's economic status, with its equally inevitable drive towards openness and reform. The SARS crisis was a crucial test, and Hu did finally manage to salvage his country's image in the eyes of the international community. Centralization and progress are difficult ideals to steer between."

 

EUROPE

 

BRITAIN:  "China's Changeover And The Rise Of Hu"

 

An editorial in the independent Financial Times read (9/20):  "From Deng Xiaoping onwards, China's leaders have skillfully handled the modernization of their economy.  But the openness to the outside world that comes with economic growth makes the secrecy and intrigue of Communist party politics an uncomfortable anachronism.  Modernizing politics will be one of the stiffest challenges facing Mr. Hu now that he has all the levers of power in his hands."

 

GERMANY:  "Hu's Victory"

 

Peter Sturm argued in center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine (9/20):  "Only now can we say that the transition to the so-called fourth generation of leaders of the People's Republic has now really been completed.  Hu's predecessor Jiang Zemin had clung to the office of the chairman of the Military Commission, knowing quite well that the power of the guns can be decisive for stability in the Middle Kingdom.  Jiang suffered from the 'politicians' sickness: ' those who have power, have difficulty giving it up again.  Hu has now wrested it from him....  As of today, Hu will be blamed for everything that happens in China.  And if even economic experts...are talking about a looming crisis, the situation is really serious.  There are still Jiang supporters in China's leadership.  They back different recipe's for China's future than Hu.  But more freedom will not be implemented in the near future.  Nevertheless. The international community should wish Hu well."

 

"The Party Is To Rule Forever"

 

Kai Strittmatter stated in center-left Sueddeutsche Zeitung of Munich (9/20):  "In the coming weeks, political optimists will witness the next surprise, when they try to find out what will now change in China.  The answer is: Not much....  It does not look like Hu Jintao being the man who could cut the Gordian knot.  Hu speaks much about corruption, the abuse of power by functionaries, and he announced more inner-party conflicts.  But the decisive thing about Hu's viewpoint is that, when he refers to 'democracy' and the 'rule of law,' these things serve only one purpose: the eternal rule of the party....  But a quagmire of problems is smoldering under the shining surface of China's economic miracle.  Hu Jintao's solution is the one presented already by Jiang Zemin. We will drag ourselves out of this swamp of problems by pulling our own pigtail.  But in the past, China was already much further on the path to reforms.  In 1987, Deng Xiaoping announced the 'separation of state and party.'  But Deng quickly became afraid of his own courage and up until today, nobody has found the courage to make such a step again.  Perhaps we have to wait for Hu's successor."

 

"Yin And Yang Of Communists"

 

Business-oriented Financial Times Deutschland of Hamburg concluded (9/20):  "Now comes the difficult part:  The leadership under Hu must unmistakably show what kind of policy he represents....  According to the old Chinese doctrine of Yin and Yang, Hu followed the soft principles, while Jiang represented the tough Yang line.  If Hu were the antipode to Jiang...there would be no more obstacles now.  He could implement greater freedoms in the inside and show greater flexibility towards Taiwan, Hong Kong and Tibet.  But his statements reveal no such plans.  He rejected political reforms before the beginning of the Central Committee meeting, and potential demonstrations were taken into custody.  The man with the smooth face can no longer hide. As of today, he will be blamed for everything that comes from Beijing."

 

"Missed Opportunity"

 

Harald Maass opined in left-of-center Frankfurter Rundschau (9/20):  "The problems which Ziang Jemin will leave to his successor are based on the system: rampant corruption, a paralyzing bureaucracy, revolts of the impoverished population and fired industrial workers.  As long as China's economy rapidly grows, and the state is able to mend social holes with money, the system will continue to work.  But an economic crisis could be enough to shake China's fragile economy in the coming years.  That is why the Ziang era may enter the history books as a missed opportunity.  It could be too late for political reforms once a crisis comes up."

 

RUSSIA:  "Power Hand-Over Complete"

 

Aleksandr Lomanov wrote in reformist Vremya Novostey (9/20):  "Yesterday saw the end of a two-year long power hand-over in China.   It has been a smooth change, which is a great success for a country with an authoritarian one-party regime.   Professor Lev Delyusin of the Institute of International Political and Economic Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences says, 'China needs political reform.  The choice remains to be between democracy and authoritarian rule with elements of a market economy.   Yesterday the plenary meeting of the Chinese Communist Party Central Committee adopted a statement to strengthen the party's leading potential.   The goal is limited reform in the party, not in the state as a whole'."

 

AUSTRIA:  "Secret Reform"

 

Editor Johnny Erling declared in independent Der Standard (9/20):  "Secrecy and stonewalling are the normal leadership style of China's Communist Party. This time, however, the antiquated ritual seemed especially absurd. After all, one issue on the party's agenda was reform: the Communist Party, a 70 million member organization that has held power for 55 years, wants to improve its capability to govern a modem state in a modern fashion....  However, the population only learned about these nice promises after the secret party plenary had ended. In addition, it was also surprised to learn that China's supreme military commander, Jiang Zemin had abdicated and that the supreme party leader Hu Jintao also commands the army now. There has been a transfer of power, accompanied by the same machinations and secret agreements that have always been characteristic of the party. This time it was just more civilized and less violent and many Chinese welcomed the news because they are hoping for a fresh political wind. The manner in which Hu Jintao handled this plenary, however, just confirms old experiences. Apart from lip service, China is neither capable of nor ready for internal party reforms and transparency."

 

SPAIN:  "Chinese Transition"

 

Conservative ABC editorialized (9/20):  "Without haste but also without pause, the Asian giant is modifying its political face at the same time that it is tirelessly strengthening its economic muscle....  Jiang Zemin's leaving the presidency of the military commission is the first ordered power transfer in communist history.  With his resignation, the person who had been head of state...consolidates the reformist designs of a capitalism, Chinese style...that is starting giving its first results in political democratization....  The Chinese transition to an open society is taking place, confirming that the Pacific area will be in a few decades the privileged stage in which the two superpowers will meet face to face." 

 

"Relief In China"

 

Centrist La Vanguardia noted (9/20):  "The most significant change expected of Hu Jiuntao is to fight against corruption and rural poverty.  It's significant that...they have published news of a fiscal reform that will free 800 million peasants from taxes, one of the most important sources of the corruption.  This relief at heart means that China has great political stability and that its path for its particular kind of communism is still straight."

 

MIDDLE EAST

 

UAE:  "China May Push For More Reforms"

 

The expatriate-oriented English-language Gulf News concluded (9/21):  "The East may no longer be Red but it is, possibly, ready. Jiang Zemin's resignation as head of the People's Liberation Army marks one of those seminal events in world history. For the first time since the Red flag was raised over Tiananmen Square in 1949 there has been a voluntary transfer of power in Beijing.  With this development there are genuine grounds for hoping that political reform, to match the enormous economic strides from Marxist Leninism to market Leninism, in the world's most populous nation will become a real possibility. The PLA is not so much an army but a huge corporation with enormous military and economic clout. Hu Jintao, unrivaled as the head of the state, party and military, is now the unquestioned leader.  Jiang knew his days were numbered with the classic indicator that someone has fallen from grace in Beijing he was airbrushed from an old photograph.  Celebrations earlier this year of the 100th anniversary of the birth of Deng Xiaoping the father of China's modernization were also used to push the message that Jiang should go. Deng's daughter hailed her father as an example of not clinging to power. In the between-the-lines world of Beijing politics this was tantamount to a public demand for Jiang's resignation.  The great leaps forward that China has made over the last 20 years, the greatest numerical movement in humanity from poverty to economic self-suffiency, cannot hide the disparity that afflicts the nation. As in times past the coastal areas are developing rapidly but much of the interior is still mired in the shoeless poverty of absolute despair.  Deng and Jiang brought China to the world's attention. The challenge for Hu will be to bring the opportunities of the world to the millions who have yet to experience the benefits of the waking giant."

 

"Transfer Of Power"

 

The English-language expatriate-oriented Khaleej Times declared (9/20):  "China has achieved another smooth transition with the transfer of power from the old guard to the younger breed.  Former Chinese president Jiang Zemin has given up his last official position as the head of the powerful Central Military Commission to the current President Hu Jintao. With this move, Hu's position gets further strengthened. Political analysts say the move will place younger people in the forefront of the nation's reform process, and completes China's first peaceful leadership transition since the 1949 Communist revolution. Some subtle changes in policy matters may now be expected. Jiang and Hu, according to avid China-watchers, had been locked in an apparent power struggle, since 2002 when Jiang gave up the post of party chief to the younger man, who then succeeded him as president in March 2003. But as head of China's massive army, Jiang still retained a huge influence in areas such as security and foreign policy. With Jiang relinquishing that position, power transfer to the younger lot seems complete. Obviously, behind-the-scenes pressure on Jiang to quit must have been strong, given the secretive nature of China's political system. Hu is a reformist, espousing a peaceful approach to the solution of domestic problems, while Jiang was hawkish, particularly on Taiwan. Jiang became president in 1989 in the aftermath of the brutal suppression of student protests in Tiananmen Square. He presided over China's transformation from a pariah state to one of the world's fastest-growing economies. Jiang may still wield considerable influence, as China's highest-decision making body remains stacked with his allies."

 

"Power Struggle Averted"

 

The expatriate-oriented English-language Gulf Today editorialized (9/20):  "China's first peaceful leadership transition since its 1949 revolution marks the maturity of its political system. President Hu Jintao replaced his predecessor Jiang Zemin as the nation's highest military chief on Sunday. The bloodless transfer of power in the ruling Communist Party was the last stage in the political transition to a younger leadership. There had been hiccups in the weeks before the event because of widening rift between the two leaders....  China's political process is still shrouded in secrecy, and these signs may be indications of developments behind the curtain....  The aging leader's popularity in the powerful army had been waning since Hu, 61, became the president. He and his confidant, Prime Minister Wen Jiabao, had been working hard to win the support of party members in their first year in office. They promised to take radical economic reforms, which had benefited mostly the urban middle class, to the farmers....  The two leaders tried to give a human face to the capitalist economic liberalisation process.  The transfer of power was bloodless, but it happened after tough and fractious bargaining between the supporters of Jiang and Hu....  However, this time the party was firmly committed to avert a power struggle. It would have shaken the confidence of investors who are fuelling China's unprecedented economic boom. Besides the smooth transition, the communist party also ensured that there was continuity in policy. In fact Hu reassured that he was committed to stability.  Stability was the watchword. It meant the continuing grip of the party and the military over every facet of Chinese life. Hu unambiguously ruled out the country switching to a western-style democratic system. The orderly way Hu took over the reins as the paramount leader is a sign that even in power struggle, the leadership was committed to ensure that no harm was done to political and economic stability. The party plenum also felt the need to scotch the existence of two power centres. Today both Hu and Premier Wen have consolidated their positions with the backing of the party."

 

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Commentary from ...
Europe
Middle East
East Asia
South Asia
Western Hemisphere
September 22, 2004 CHINA LEADERSHIP TRANSITION: 'HU'S ON FIRST'



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