Council for Strategic Affairs

Council for Strategic Affairs



2012 is the Year of the Dragon, the most favorable and revered sign in the 12-year Chinese zodiac.  Everyone in the Dragon Kingdom is presumably a descendent of the mythical Dragon. A lot of Chinese couples will plan birth of their progeny in the year of the Dragon. Apparently, a son born in the year of Dragon is endowed with intelligence, enterprise and self-control. The Dragon Kingdom will face “bigger challenges” in this year of the Dragon, including slowing down of the economy, burgeoning social unrest and the issue of succession. Transition of the 5th generation of leaders of the Royal Dragonese Party will take place in the end of 2012 during the 18th annual congress. When Hu Jintao became the general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party, the ubiquitous question was “Who is Hu?” The pertinent question in the year of the Dragon would be “Who is She?” 

Because when the “Who Dragon” steps down, the “She Dragon” will become the General Secretary in the CCP meeting at the end of year of the Dragon. Since 2008, the “She Dragon” has been groomed as the vice-President” and the vice-chairman of the Central Military Commission and the eventual successor to Hu Jintao. We are told that Xi JinPing, a 58 years old “Princeling” (son of one of the revolutionary hero General Xi Zhongxun) is “redder than the red” because he dedicated himself to the Marxist theory from early days in order to prosper in the communist party.  Princeling Xi reportedly joined the Communist party when his own illustrious father was in prison during the era of cultural revolution. An ethnic Han, and a native of Shaanxi Province, he was born on June 1st 1953. He graduated from the School of Humanities and Social Sciences of the prestigious Tsinghua University, majoring in Marxist theory and ideological education. With an on-the-job postgraduate education, he has a doctorate degree, LLD. He joined the Chinese Communist Party in January 1974. Described as “extremely ambitious” and pragmatic, from the beginning Xi has focused his eyes on the “ultimate prize”. Married twice, he has one daughter. He does not drink, does not smoke and is not influenced by money and is the “Mr. Clean” of the Dragon Kingdom. Xi JinPing will eventually become the President of the Peoples’ Republic of China in 2013. Most likely, Hu Jintao will remain as the Chairman of the Central Military Commission for a few years more before passing the ultimate baton to Xi.

Over a period of time, Chinese Communist Party has tried to inculcate internal party democracy while maintaining the supremacy of the Communist Party in the nation. One of the reasons is that most of the elderly leaders do not want to spend time in prison during the wars of succession that were the norm during the cultural revolution and again during the 1987-1989 period.  Therefore, orderly, pre-determined transition of leaders has been planned from the time when the 3rd generation leaders took over. Instead of having a “supreme leader” like Mao or Deng, the leadership is collectively shared by the troika of General Secretary/President/Chairman of the Central Military Commission, the Speaker of the Parliament and the Prime Minister. The generation next is groomed for a period of four years under the tutelage of the reigning leadership. This gives each generation of new communist leaders eight years in executive office besides the four years in training, thereby ensuring continuity with transition. It is during the second four year of their term that the new leadership acquires “wings” and therefore feels “strong” enough to take bold and independent decisions with international ramifications. Each generation of leadership has enunciated their own grandiose theories starting from Mao (Marxist Leninist theory with Mao Ze Dong thought), Deng (Socialism with Chinese Characteristics), Jiang Zemin (The Theory of Three represents) and Hu (Peaceful Rise of China and Harmonious  Development). It is not clear as to what ideological theory Xi will enunciate once he is formally anointed as the supreme leader of the middle kingdom.

Like their counterparts in the Democratic Peoples’ Republic of Korea, Chinese Communist party has encouraged dynastic succession across generations albeit with a difference. No single dynasty is encouraged. The children of the revolutionary heroes, called the “Princelings” control various ministries and party departments collectively and enjoy enormous privileges and power. Most of them were born during the civil war in the Yanan city in Shaanxi province in northwest China. This elite, exclusive and secret club is also called ” the Children of Yanan” who meet at least once a year to deliberate on China’s state of affairs while plotting their stronghold on the party and the nation. 

Xi reportedly has a strong belief that the Princelings are the true heirs of the revolutionary legacy of their parents’ generation and have the right to rule China. The Princelings had helped create the notorious Red Guards. Unlike his two predecessors, Xi JingPing has much stronger ties with the PLA. Any hopes of democratic reforms should be given up because of this sense of entitlement. The fact that his current wife is a celebrity folk singer and he was influenced by Buddhist philosophy during his earlier years are not the only redeeming facts. He may be more of an internationalist because he sent his only daughter to study at Harvard under a pseudonym. His sister is supposed to have lived in Canada and one of his brothers lived in the Hong Kong colony during the British rule. He will remain a cautious hyper-nationalist as reflected in his outbursts in Mexico in 2009 when under piling international pressure on China he stated: “Some foreigners with full bellies and nothing better to do engage in finger-pointing at us”. He was recently present with the diplomatic hoi polloi rubbing shoulders with the likes of Henry Kissinger on the 40th anniversary of Richard Nixon’s historic visit to China in 1972.  His international profile is being carefully crafted by arranging a US trip soon in February in the year of the Dragon.

Despite this seemingly “orderly transition”; factional fights continue. Xi was able to outsmart Hu Jintao and emerged as the front-runner to succeed Hu in the party congress in October 2007, overshadowing Hu’s protégé Li Keqiang. Perhaps, the 2012 succession drama will eventually bring mass purgings of Hu’s  protégés  under the garb of trials for corruption. Hu versus Zemin (Shanghai Clique) rivalry continues in the Chinese Communist party and with the departure of Hu Jintao, Jiang Zemin faction will exercise indirect powers through the Princeling Xi. Consequently, China will not be able to resolve bilateral and multi-lateral territorial disputes with its neighbors including India owing to the factional power struggles that will unfold mysteriously. During the recently concluded bilateral talks of special representatives, Chinese foreign ministry stated: “We believe the peaceful development of China and India is an opportunity for both sides and the whole world. With the joint efforts of the two sides, 2012 will be a year of greater and better exchanges and cooperation between China and India. The year 2012 will become a year of cooperation and development.”  Pragmatically, there is unlikely to be any major initiative expected to resolve the boundary dispute under the first four years of Xi JingPing’s despite the recent signing of agreement on the establishment of a working mechanism on consultation and coordination on India-China boundary affairs.