As China’s president Hu Jintao awaits the end of his term, a new and relatively unknown man has been chosen to lead Beijing into the next decade.
Son of a communist revolutionary associated with the first generation of Chinese, Xi Jinping’s background embodies typical characteristics of China’s grey-suited technocratic leadership. Having completed his studies in chemical engineering at Tsinghua University, Jinping quickly rose through Communist Party ranks to become party chief in Fujian province, and later Zhejian and Shanghai. After joining the Politburo Standing Committee in 2007, Jinping gained experience in a wide variety of positions, including taking part in the organization of the 2008 Summer Olympics and serving as China’s leading foreign dignitary. With his Communist Party credentials in check, what is Jinping facing with China’s immense political problems?
Numerous political issues face Xi Jinping as he takes to the Presidency, which include particularly high degrees of corruption. Associated with China’s economic boom following decades of state-planning, immense levels of corruption have ransacked the country after liberalizing reforms during the 1990s and 2000s. Despite recent tough-talk by Jinping in cracking down on corruption, China market-led growth has marginalized institutional constraints previously held under more conservative regimes, which has led to greater instances of rent-seeking and bribing of Communist Party officials. Moreover, Western-based companies are increasingly worried about uncontrollable levels of corruption, with growing concerns over sustainability.
Another problem China’s new leader will have to face is its foreign relations with the U.S, Japan and North Korea. The looming currency conflict with the United States is destined to arise following President Barack Obama re-election, with China consistently discussed during all the presidential debates. Also, as the U.S increases its military presence in the South China Sea, inevitable conflicts will arise over definition of international waters, with China focusing on arms sales to Taiwan. In another vein, diplomatic conflict with Japan will come to the forefront after the Japanese purchases of disputed islands off the Chinese coast, which contains rich fishing reserves and serves as a key shipping lane. Lastly, North Korea remains another sticking point for China’s foreign policy, as China serves as an essential lifeline between the West and the totalitarian regime isolated by years of Western sanctions, and economic hardship.
– Cody Levine