NPR’s Louisa Lim has a piece about the leadership change, describing the prospects and factions that we’ll be watching and the effects of the Wang Lijun affair:
The generation of new leaders came of age in very different times. Many of them studied social sciences at university in the 1980s, the most liberal era in modern China, allowing them to become familiar with Western intellectual thought. Most of them have traveled abroad; Xi’s daughter is studying at Harvard. According to U.S. diplomatic cables made public by WikiLeaks, Vice President Xi Jinping has specifically mentioned his love of Hollywood movies, specifically Saving Private Ryan.
Cheng Li, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, says this generation of leaders is “more cosmopolitan.”
“And also because of their educational background in law and political science, they may be less scared of political experimentation or rule of law,” Li continues. “That’s certainly a hope, but there’s also a fear that this generation may also be more nationalistic, more arrogant, maybe sometimes too bold or risk-takers. We don’t know.”
Brookings’ Li describes the new reality as “one party, two coalitions” — in other words, “populists versus elitists, or Communist Youth League versus princelings” — requiring leadership by consensus. Political analysts frequently cite Japan’s Liberal Democratic Party — in which the factionalization has become institutionalized — as an example of how China’s Communist Party could develop.
“You do see this kind of factional infighting become increasingly transparent, and Chinese society, Chinese intellectual community and Chinese leadership becoming more diversified or pluralistic,” says Li. “That’s a welcome development, but it also poses serious challenges.”
However, a political drama currently roiling the country could signal the outbreak of a new factional war. Wang Lijun was a hero and the crime-busting top cop in the southern city of Chongqing — until 10 days ago, when he was reassigned to become a deputy mayor, with duties including overseeing sanitation and public records.
Then Wang fled to the U.S. consulate in the southwestern city of Chengdu, and spent an entire day holed up there. At first, the Chongqing government claimed he was on leave, undergoing “vacation-style therapy” for stress. But now the central authorities have announced an investigation. Some speculate that, faced with a corruption investigation, Wang had tried to claim asylum; others hint that he might have been seeking shelter after falling out with his former boss, Bo Xilai, a prominent member of the Communist Party’s princeling faction, who was once a contender for a top political spot.