China’s New Leaders and a History Lesson

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2012 is the year China’s president, Hu Jintao is expected to step down from leadership. Xi Jinping is expect to step up as the new leader of China’s Communist Party. This year is the first year in a decade that marks a major shift in the Chinese government. A new wave of officials called the “princelings” are expected to take over several key positions, such as Bo Xilai and Xi Jinping.

One of the key things to know about the princelings is why they are called the princelings. It is because they are the sons of heroes during China’s cultural revolution, people who worked along side Mao Zedong. In the past, especially during the 1990’s, many in the communist party viewed the princelings with suspicion because many of them were able to secure political positions because of blood ties rather than sheer merit. That is not to say, princelings were any less qualified, but they seemed to have an unfair advantage in a communist society, which stressed equality among people.

However, in the coming political change the princelings are experiencing a surge in popularity among Communist Party officials because they feel people like Bo and Xi would represent and uphold the party’s traditions and help steer China away from descending into chaos.

China is currently the second largest economy, the largest army, and is still growing. However, China’s resources must be kept in order and directed. Though China has huge potential, there are many perils that can throw Chinese growth off track: its currency fluctuation, its status as an exporter to the west during a global recession, workers’ dissent, and having a large army that makes the west uneasy.

In this perilous environment, China needs to produce harmony at home among its people and workers and seek to strengthen relationships abroad. A way to attain this is proposed by ancient Chinese political theorists such as Confucius and Xunzi. They propose that a truly successful government must win the hearts and minds of people at home and abroad and through this seek to develop long term relationships. Flexing military and economic power to assert hegemony only causes dissent.

This ideology seems too outdated and idealistic to function in modern global politics. However, if we look at history we see that writers such as Confucius wrote during times of political fragmentation, where many small states fought for land and power. There are many parallels between that time and the current fragmentation in the world today. Even   more convincing, Henry Kissinger told a New York Times reporter that he believed this type of human ancient Chinese political theory would create the basis for modern Chinese foreign policy.

This is likely where the princelings step into the picture. Under this context, we see why the Communist Party would want the princelings to have political power. Their familial ties to the Cultural Revolution and to Mao’s comrades would resonate with disenfranchised workers. Furthermore their promotion of Maoist songs, doctrine, and ideas harken back to a notion of a Communist government dedicated to creating a better and more equal lifestyle among its people.

The current economic divide between rich and poor is currently growing and many are tired of China’s cutthroat capitalism that only focuses to grow the country’s economy and ignores the people’s livelihood and well being. And China’s government hopes that under new leadership, the government can win the hearts of its people at home and later its allies abroad just as the philosophers of old stated.

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