Why do China’s officers want to go to war? There is an unfortunate confluence of factors. First, there is a new Chinese confidence bordering on arrogance. Beijing leaders, especially since 2008, have been riding high. They saw economic turmoil around the world and thought the century was theirs to dominate. The U.S. and the rest of the West, they believed, were in terminal decline.Sponsored Ads
The Chinese military also has gained substantial influence in the last year, perhaps becoming the most powerful faction in the Communist Party. Beginning as early as 2003, senior officers of the People’s Liberation Army were drawn into civilian power struggles as Hu Jintao, then the new leader, sought their support in his effort to shove aside Jiang Zemin, his wily predecessor who sought to linger in the limelight. Last year, the civilian infighting intensified as the so-called Fifth Generation leadership, under the command of Xi, took over from Hu’s Fourth. Like a decade ago, feuding civilians sought the support of the generals and admirals, making them arbiters in the party’s increasingly rough game of politics.
Australia in the centuries before European discovery did not pay tribute to Imperial China, but when China’s then president, Hu Jintao, addressed the Australian Parliament in 2003, he pointed out: ”Back in the 1420s, the expeditionary fleets of China’s Ming Dynasty reached Australian shores. For centuries, the Chinese sailed across vast seas and settled down in what they called Southern Land, or today’s Australia.
”They brought Chinese culture to this land and lived harmoniously with the local people, contributing their proud share to Australia’s economy, society and its thriving pluralistic culture.”
This is not fiction. It’s supported by archaeological evidence of visits by Chinese sailors half a millennium before Captain Cook.
If Chinese nationalists can invent arguments about territorial sovereignty on the grounds of cultural and official contacts half a millennium ago, before most of today’s nation states existed, then, as Barme says, where does it stop?
”Presumably even the … humorists at the PLA staff college might find that a bit of an overreach. But just in case, we’d note that Chinese ship anchors, an estimated 1000 to 1500 years old, have been recovered off Mexico’s Pacific coast, so why stop at Japan?”
For many analysts, this is more than idle guesswork: understanding the party’s up-and-coming stars means understanding its priorities. They say hopes for political reform, already dulled by the announcement of an overwhelmingly conservative standing committee, are unlikely to be revived by the new generation of leaders. Many of them have been groomed into positions of power by former president Hu Jintao, a cautious bureaucrat who has long rewarded adherence to the status quo.
“Conventional wisdom is the idea that this is the generation that will have more foreign exposure, or a bit more experience abroad, and this will make them more cosmopolitain or outward looking,” said Rana Mitter, a professor of Chinese politics at Oxford University.
“I’m not very sure that this is what’s going on here.”
“Many of them have been groomed into positions of power by former president Hu Jintao, a cautious bureaucrat who has long rewarded adherence to the status quo.”
A continued heavy focus on stability by Chinese leadership probably means that China will eventually get hit with a real crisis, including the substantial threat of a revolution. Only flexibility can stop this, but it looks like change or flexibility is very low on the list of Chinese priorities.
Vice-President Xi Jinping was on Thursday appointed chief of China’s military after a pivotal party congress that saw him become head of the ruling Communist Party, state media reported.
The appointment means outgoing Chinese leader Hu Jintao stands down as chairman of the Central Military Commission (CMC) – a powerful position that his predecessor Jiang Zemin had clung to for two years after Hu was made president.
Xi will be named national president in March as part of what now appears to be China’s first clean transfer of power for two decades.
This is what we have been waiting to find out. Will Hu Jintao step down as head of the military? There was much speculation about whether Hu would leave now or in two years. So now we know. Hu steps down in March.
With Hu stepping down in March, and leaving Xi Jinping in charge of the military, then based on what we know today one should expect that China will become even more aggressive in its foreign policies. Military leaders have a stronger relationship with Xi and more influence.
“Xi Jinping’s major power base is not in the Party, not in the government, but in the PLA,” or the People’s Liberation Army, says Willy Lam.
What would a more aggressive China look like?
Even as the Communist Party Congress concludes its sweeping leadership transition later this week, the question of whether the departing president, Hu Jintao, will keep his powerful post as head of the military looms as a major unresolved issue, and one of deepest intrigue.
Competing possibilities have been floated in recent days, with the preponderant view being that Mr. Hu, unlike his two predecessors, Jiang Zemin and Deng Xiaoping, will completely retire rather than stay on as the top overseer of military affairs. That would give Mr. Xi greater influence over the military and a firmer grip on power from the start.
There was the speech Hu Jintao gave, and the one he wanted to give.
Taken together, the unprecedented omissions suggest Mr. Hu may have lost a power struggle to Mr. Jiang, who came on stage immediately after Mr. Hu at Thursday’s opening of a key Communist Party congress, to a swell of applause from the 2,270 assembled delegates. The two men sat alone before a backdrop of red flags, leaving the impression the 86-year-old Mr. Jiang, though theoretically retired, remains Mr. Hu’s equal when it comes to clout within the party.
But Willy Lam, an expert in Communist Party politics at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, said it was unprecedented to have two different versions of the general secretary’s work report, as the address to the party congress is known. In another break from tradition, the written version of the speech was made available to journalists only after Mr. Hu had finished speaking, making it difficult for anyone listening to notice what was being omitted.
China’s departing president and Communist party leader, Hu Jintao, gave a clear signal on Thursday that the generational changes among Beijing’s rulers will not soften the country’s increasingly aggressive conduct of its territorial disputes with its neighbours.
Coming after months of increasingly sharp confrontations between Chinese ships and coast guard vessels from Japan, the Philippines and Vietnam in waters around disputed islands, this reaffirmation of China’s ambitions will raise concern in neighbouring capitals.
This is just one more sign that things are not going to get better. The weather forecast is for more storms ahead.
But there are also reports that Hu, who is seen as not leaving much of a legacy, will be forced to give up all of his posts so that his successor can have a free hand to deal with the country’s problems.
The reports said that as long as the U.S. keeps up its attempts to resume its dominance in Asia, Hu will have to leave his successor full power to handle crises such as China’s sizzling territorial disputes with neighboring states in the East China Sea and the South China Sea.
Many Chinese government officials, including two members of the all-powerful Politburo of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), have recently revealed that they are busy reading The Old Regime and the Revolution by Alexis de Tocqueville. This is a book providing an analysis of French society before the revolution in 1789 and an investigation into the causes of the revolution. It sounds bizarre that such a book published more than 150 years ago on the history of a seemingly remote country would become popular among top leaders in China at this juncture. But a lot of strange things are taking place in China nowadays.
The crisis is so serious that not only is social media flooded with criticism and mockeries, even the official media allow unusual allegations of failures to intrude on the inventory of achievements by the current leadership of Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao. The Hu-Wen leadership took charge in 2002 and was originally praised for the “Hu-Wen New Deal”, carrying out unfinished economic and political reforms and providing solutions to knotty problems such as social polarisation, government corruption and environmental degeneration. They failed on all accounts, although during their tenure the Chinese economy did continue to grow fast and overtake Japan as the second largest economy in the world.
The Old Regime and the Revolution
The book analyzes French society before the French Revolution — the so-called “Ancien Régime” — and investigates the causes and forces that caused the Revolution. It is one of the major early historical works on the French Revolution. In this book, de Tocqueville develops his main theory about the French revolution, the theory of continuity, in which he states that even though the French tried to disassociate themselves from the past and from the autocratic old regime, they eventually reverted to a powerful central government.
A string of unpredictable recent events in China have left China Watchers worldwide wondering what is going on? For a state that prides itself in maintaining “stability” (wei wen) at all costs, the nation seems increasingly unstable and unpredictable. After twenty years of managed leadership successions, steady economic growth, basic social stability, and a generally positive foreign policy—we have recently witnessed unpredictable instability in all these spheres. China watchers ask: Is this the “new normal” in China? If so, policymakers worldwide should start hedging their policies and relationships with China in order to protect their interests and guard against potential fallout.
In the political realm, a raft of events has transpired in recent months that collectively indicate that all is not well in the body politic. Most recently, China’s heir-apparent, Xi Jinping, disappeared from public view for two weeks—with no explanation offered to the Chinese public or the world for his absence. Although Mr. Xi has now resurfaced, the totally secretive manner in which the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) dealt with the disappearance flies in the face of its pretensions (under Hu Jintao) to increase “transparency” in party and state affairs.