Last week, China’s Communist Party unveiled its new fifth generation of leaders, with vice president Xi Jinping taking over from outgoing president Hu Jintao as party chief to lead the second largest economy and over one billion people for the next 10 years. This appointment, by China’s previous generation of leaders, was predictable. China’s future, however, may not be.
This is largely because to many people Xi is a bit of a mystery man. He vanished this past September with no explanation from the Chinese government for two weeks. Xi’s first speech as party leader spoke of vague economic reform and “advancing the cause of socialism with Chinese characteristics.”
Another clue came in current president Hu Jintao’s state address that called for the new leaders to remain committed to state ownership. Many economists argue that China’s state owned companies need to be opened to competition for China’s economic growth to continue.
Xi hasn’t spoken about his political beliefs, so analysts are left to press buttons on their “Educated Guess Machines.” Most likely, this new generation will provide token reform to maintain power. They will have to address the wealth gap as well as corruption. The gap between rich and poor remains glaring, and needs to be lessened.
Poverty has decreased in China, from 80% of people living below the poverty line in 1981 to just 16% in 2005, according to a 2011 World Bank research report. However, the country is currently home to a great deal of millionaires and also many millions of people who live on just one dollar a day.
Recently, the wife of Bo Xilai, the party leader once seen as a candidate for top office, has been accused of involvement in the murder of British businessman, Neil Heywood. This scandal has prevented Xilai from taking on the role of party chief.
Whatever happens in the next decade will be of great global significance. Since 2010, China has been the world’s second largest economy behind only the United States. It is also the world’s top exporter and biggest emitter of greenhouse gases.
Seeking to stabilize rocky U.S ties, Joe Biden and Xi cheered for the Los Angeles Lakers together back in 2011. A leaked U.S diplomatic cable also revealed that Xi is a fan of Hollywood war movies.
There appears to have been an absence of any major outcry or violence during the handover of power in Beijing. What major changes, if any, will take place in China over the next ten years will, for now, be purely speculative.