Japan needs sound strategy to deal with Xi administration
The Chinese Communist Party held the first plenary session of the 18th Central Committee on Thursday and made enormous changes to its leadership. The session marked the beginning of the Xi Jinping regime that will steer China through the next decade.
Xi, the new party general secretary, held a press conference on the day. "Our responsibility is to unite and lead people of the entire party and of all ethnic groups around the country while...continuing to work for realizing the great revival of the Chinese nation in order to let the Chinese nation stand more firmly and powerfully among all nations around the world," he said.
In line with Xi's words, it seems evident that China will continue to advance along its path of reform and opening-up while maintaining a political system dominated by a single party. China will also seek to further expand its economic and military might, aiming at becoming a superpower on par with the United States. Its policy of expansion both militarily and economically will not change anytime soon.
Can Xi exercise leadership?
Xi, the son of a former vice premier, is known as the leader of the so-called princelings, the influential offspring of high-ranking party officials. However, with his elders still holding sway in the party, it remains unclear to what extent he can exercise his leadership.
Noteworthy in the latest leadership appointments is that Hu Jintao, who led China for 10 years during his two terms, not only vacated the general secretary post but also stepped down as chairman of the Central Military Commission, handing over both posts to Xi.
When Jiang Zemin stepped aside to make way for Hu as party leader, he remained military chief for nearly two more years. By giving up both posts, Hu likely is trying to end the dual-rule framework that has complicated decision-making by top leaders.
Yet, Hu appears to have retained influence by promoting senior military leaders close to him as vice chairmen of the commission before the party's National Congress. He also placed members of his faction in the Politburo. These actions point to a desire by Hu to retain power in the party leadership even after he retires from his leadership posts.
This becomes even more clear considering that Hu's "scientific development concept," which aims to engineer balanced, sustainable development, was promoted to an official guiding socio-economic ideology at the congress, and is now enshrined in the party's charter.
Also, the Politburo Standing Committee was reduced from nine members to seven. More than the desires of Xi, the line-up of the committee reflects a power struggle between Jiang and Hu.
Taming social problems urgent
Xi is scheduled to become president next spring and with that will attain China's leadership trifecta--party, state and military.
The top priority of the Xi administration is likely to be easing the social strains that have been intensifying in the nation. China needs to get serious about dealing with expanding income and other disparities, corruption in high-ranking officials, and environmental destruction--all problems that have accompanied rapid economic growth.
The boycott against Japanese goods being staged in protest of Japan's nationalization of some of the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture has impacted not only the Japanese economy but also Chinese businesses. The Xi administration should immediately exert self-restraint regarding coercive diplomatic tactics.
How should the Japanese government grapple with China's policy of military and economic expansion? We believe a calm grasp of the situation is essential to consolidate strategy toward China.
Through a multipronged approach via the East Asia Summit and other frameworks, Japan should step up its efforts to engage China to ensure it will fulfill the international responsibility that comes with national power.
(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Nov. 16, 2012)