The next major challenge for the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party will most likely come not from external forces, but from within the party. China’s past leaders, among them Mao Zedong in the first generation, Deng Xiaoping in the second generation, Jiang Zemin in the third and Hu Jintao in the fourth, have all publicly recognized the crucial importance of the party’s unity and singular direction for the Chinese regime. From time to time, however, each of these leaders have maintained unity in leadership and the cohesion of governing elites in a unilateral way, sometimes even with violence, in order to eliminate political rivals.
It is likely that the new generation of Chinese leaders, known as the “fifth generation,” will consider the challenge of promoting harmony and unity in the Chinese Communist Party’s leadership more difficult for them than for past generations of leaders. Three factors contribute to this political challenge of enormous proportions.