Shadow of Former President Looms Over China’s New Leaders

Editor’s note: In an

interview with CNN

, Cheng Li discusses the new generation of top leaders in China and possible implications for Xi’s term as China’s new president. Read an excerpt below.

CNN: What do you make of the new lineup?

Cheng Li: It is not a surprise but a disappointment. The disappointment is based on several reasons. First, apparently there was no intra-party multiple-candidate election for the politburo and its standing committee. They were still selected through the old way of “dark-box” manipulation by departing politburo standing committee members. Also, it’s dominated by Jiang Zemin’s protégés, especially the so-called princelings.

Despite a profound sense of disappointment, I should say there are some positive things coming out of this leadership transition.

One is that Hu Jintao stepped down as Chairman of the Central Military Commission, making the succession more institutionalized and complete. By and large, this leadership transition is another orderly transition in PRC history. The leadership change follows the rules and norms of age limits, and the turnover rates in all leadership bodies are all very high: 64% for the Central Committee, 77% for the Disciplinary Commission, 68% for the Secretariat, 71% for the PSC.

The size change (from nine to seven members of the PSC), including the elimination of the police czar and the propaganda czar, is a welcome development. These are all positives but, in my judgment, this leadership lineup does not generate an uplifting spirit for the nation; I think this is a major opportunity lost.

Read the full interview »