China: The struggle for coherent leadership (and other news)

Francois Godement’s paper for the European Council on Foreign Relations on the new Chinese party leadership argues that Xi Jinping has accumulated substantial personal power in excess of his predecessors, albeit at the cost of catering to the interests of Party elders. Worth a read for anyone interested in China’s internal politics.

Interestingly, former president Jiang Zemin, widely seen as the leader of the Party’s conservative wing, recently publicly endorsed Xi, a clear call for Party unity that has suggested to some that Xi’s authority is not all that it could be.

It is worth remembering, however, that Hu Jintao’s tenure as president was always limited by the fact that he was a compromise candidate from Jiang’s perspective, with the result that Jiang kept behind-the-scenes control of his faction of the Party. Hu and his premier Wen Jiabao spoke often about Party reform, but never seemed able to accomplish it. Xi, by contrast, was Jiang’s hand-picked successor. Jiang’s pronouncement may be seen as a call for unity around Xi’s energetic if not yet effective approach to tackling Party corruption.

Meanwhile, former Chongqing Party chief Bo Xilai, once at the pinnacle of populist politics, is to face trial on charges of graft and abuse of power.

Vice President Li Yuanchao is headed to Pyongyang to celebrate the anniversary of the end of the Korean War. This will likely be one more forlorn call to North Korea to embark on the path of reform and opening- a longstanding Chinese agenda whenever state visits occur between the two countries.

A mass protest was held today outside the Chinese consulate in Manila against Chinese aggression in territorial disputes with the Philippines. The protesters rightly point out that such disputes tarnish China’s image as a benevolent power.

In other news, Defense Industry Daily reports the possibility of a submarine deal between Poland and Germany. Germany may lease two of its U212s to Poland, allowing Poland’s old ex-Norwegian Kobben class subs to retire. If completed, the deal would also provide for a joint submarine operating authority, a sensible move for both Baltic countries. A letter of intent between the two defence ministers also includes cooperation in logistics vessel procurement, good news for Poland’s waning shipbuilding industry.

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