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|What matters at China´s party congress|
Corriere della Sera - October 16th 2007
When the world’s biggest country, measured by population, which could within 20 years be the world’s biggest economy, holds a meeting of its ruling Communist Party that happens only once every five years, it sounds like it should be an important and even exciting event. But it is also held mostly in secret, and the conclusions from it are usually incomprehensible. There are really only three things that we are likely to be able to get an idea about.
The simplest of the three issues is the succession to the party leadership. Hu Jintao, the current president, is due to serve until 2012. His successor should become a member of the party’s Politburo Standing Committee, the ultimate centre of power in
The important question is whether there is one clear successor, or two men, who will compete for the post. As the Congress opened, the rumours were that there would be two—called, for the record, Li Keqiang and Xi Jinping, both provincial party chiefs. If the rumours turn out to be true, that will be significant because it will show that Hu Jintao has not gathered all power into his own hands and because it will promise a power struggle within the party during the next five years.
That weakness of President Hu will affect both of the other two issues which are of interest to westerners at this Congress.
The longer they fail, the more the problem of inflation (now 6% a year) will grow, and the more anger will develop abroad about the trade surplus and about
The final issue may provide one of those clues. That issue is the environment: pollution in
Pollution, like inflation, is also a political threat to the survival in power of the Communist Party itself. It is therefore possible that even if President Hu fails to get his chosen successor and has to accept competition, he could forge a consensus to bring in new measures to control growth and enforce anti-pollution laws. If a lot of public comments are made by Congress delegates about the environment, it is likely to be an indication that he has succeeded.
Other issues will, of course, be discussed, both among the delegates and among the many pundits watching the Congress: