Thursday, October 4, 2007

Impenetrable Chinese Politics

I don't think I will ever understand how the Chinese political system actually works.

According to the NY Times, there's a deadlock of sorts among the upper echelons of the Communist party over who will succeed Hu JinTao at the end of his next five year term in 2012. What's interesting to me is that his opposition comes from Jiang ZeMin, the former CCCP chairman (why do we call them the president of China?), who is now 80, and holds no official office. Apparently his stature and authority is still enough to effectively veto the man who currently is supposed to run the country.

Now I understand that on some level all power is based on a perception of authority. Civil disobedience, behind-the-scenes revolts, walkouts, and even coupes do happen. Less dramatically, when there is a question of authority or power in government, one party will often step forward and just assume the power in question; think Marbury vs. Madison, or whichever president it was that decided declarations of war are not necessary for sending out the army.

That said, I don't think for a moment that Bill Clinton could do anything whatsoever to hinder George Bush in exercising his powers. Bush, after all, claims that he has the power to do virtually anything he wants for national security reasons. Despite massive opposition from the population, Congress, and even higher levels of the military, most people agree that Bush has the legal authority to start bombing Iran if he so chooses, and I'm pretty sure that the soldiers would go along with it, even if there were some opposition voiced.

In China, not so. We often assume that the CCP, or the people in charge of it can do whatever they want, and aren't hindered by checks and balances that constrain politicians in the west. Nothing could be farther from the truth. In many ways, even the top officials in China are much more constrained in terms of what they can actually do than a President or Prime Minister of a western country.

Here's the most interesting line of the article, referring to Zeng Qinghong, who was Jiang Zemin's right hand man, but who Hu still wants to keep around:

But they say that Mr. Hu has sought to retain Mr. Zeng. This is partly because Mr. Hu’s grasp of the party’s internal workings remains incomplete, they say.

If the chairman of the party doesn't get it, there's not much hope for me.

No comments: