Friday, October 05, 2007

Already then, with the 17th Party Congress coming up soon (October 15th) and rumors flying thick, I will issue my list of personnel predictions on the Congress. Please note that this is purely for fun, and I don't mean to offend anyone or political party, nor do I seek to offend any colleagues. Of course, this list is generated from all the publicly available information I gathered, including lists issued by my senior colleagues. I think this list comes closest to the one issued by senior China watcher Willy Lam. Below, I also give their age and approximate odds of being in the Politburo Standing Committee. I also attach a NYT article on the topic below. READERS, SUBMIT YOUR OWN PREDICTIONS! I WILL POST THEM ANONYMOUSLY IF YOU WANT!

Most Likely to Stay

Hu Jintao (65) 95% (hey, nothing is certain)
Wen Jiabao (65) 94%
Li Changchun (63) 92%
Wu Bangguo (66) 90%

Most Likely to Retire

Luo Gan (73) 5%
Huang Ju 0%
Jia Qinglin (67) 25%
Zeng Qinghong (68) 35%
Wu Guanzheng (almost 69) 20%

Possible Promotions Into the PSB

Zhou Yongkang (almost 65) 70%
Li Keqiang (52)65%
Xi Jinping (54) 60%
Zhang Dejiang (61) 45%
He Guoqiang (64) 45%
Wang Lequan (62) 35%
Wang Zhaoguo (66) 35%
Yu Zhengsheng (62) 25%
Liu Yunshan (60) 15%
Liu Qi (65) 15%
Hui Liangyu (63) 15%
Wang Gang (65) 5%

Due to age, Wu Yi, Zeng Peiyan, Zhang Lichang and Cao Gangchuan have negligible chance of being promoted into the PSB. Guo Boxiong will likely stay another term in the Politburo.

Likely Politburo Candidates:

Li Keqiang (in the event that these two don't get into the PSB)
Xi Jinping
Li Yuanchao
Zhang Gaoli (PS of Tianjin)

Other possibilities

Wang Yang
Wang Qishan
Bo Xilai
Zhou Xiaochuan
Ma Kai
Liu Yandong
Li Jianguo

China's Leaders Deadlocked Over Succession
Published: October 5, 2007

BEIJING, Oct. 4 — Just days away from a major leadership reshuffle, China's Communist Party bosses remain deadlocked over who should sit on the ruling Politburo Standing Committee and who should be anointed to succeed President Hu Jintao as China's No. 1 leader five years from now, party officials and political observers say.

The uncertainty has contributed to a tense political climate in Beijing, where worries about economic overheating and talk of military action to keep Taiwan from moving toward legal independence have complicated the ruling party's already delicate internal succession process.

The Communist Party plans to convene a congress on Oct. 15 to ratify a slate of leaders who will serve under Mr. Hu through 2012. But party officials say Mr. Hu and his still-powerful predecessor, Jiang Zemin, have yet to reach a consensus on the leadership line-up.

Among the most significant questions that remain unanswered is whether Mr. Hu will succeed in forming a team that consists of people who owe their power mainly to him instead of to Mr. Jiang or other party elders.

The party elite also has failed to rally behind a younger leader to succeed Mr. Hu when his second term ends in 2012. If that does not change, Chinese politics could become more volatile in coming years, as interest groups form around rival contenders.

Horse trading ahead of the congress has colored almost everything Chinese leaders have done or said in recent weeks.

Top officials have issued fresh warnings that China may take military action if Chen Shui-bian, the president of Taiwan, follows through with his plan to hold a referendum on whether Taiwan should apply to join the United Nations under the name Taiwan rather than its legal name, Republic of China. Chinese leaders view the referendum as a backdoor attempt to sever Taiwan's remaining ties to mainland China, which they claim would trigger a military response.

Party officials say that Mr. Hu intends to make Taiwan a focus of the upcoming congress. They say he may be seeking to garner support for using force if Mr. Chen does not back down. But he also may hope the Taiwan issue will unify the party around his leadership at a time when he faces political pressure from Mr. Jiang on domestic matters.

Arguably the most important function of the congress, the first in five years, will be to select someone to replace Mr. Hu. Two provincial party leaders, Li Keqiang, 52, the party secretary of Liaoning Province in northeastern China, and Xi Jinping, 54, the newly appointed party boss of Shanghai, are seen as contenders to join the Politburo Bureau Standing Committee and take over the most senior positions five years from now.

Mr. Li, viewed as Mr. Hu's favorite, may now have to settle for second place behind Mr. Xi, who has stronger support from Mr. Jiang, said several people informed about the jockeying. They spoke on condition of anonymity because China treats all elite political maneuvering as a state secret.

One slate of candidates discussed among party leaders in recent days has Mr. Xi replacing Zeng Qinghong as vice president and head of the ruling party's secretariat, the day-to-day manager of party affairs. Mr. Li would become executive vice premier.

Both would join the Politburo standing committee, with Mr. Xi outranking Mr. Li in the hierarchy by a slim — but potentially decisive — margin, putting him in line to succeed Mr. Hu as party chief. Mr. Li would stand to inherit the post of premier, now held by Wen Jiabao, in 2012.

The party chief generally assumes the additional titles of state president and head of the Central Military Commission. That would mean that Mr. Xi, a "princeling" whose father, Xi Zhongxun, was also a senior party official, would become the presumed future leader of China.

But these people cautioned that Mr. Hu had not endorsed Mr. Xi as his successor, leaving open the possibility that he could still mobilize support for Mr. Li or leave the designation of "fifth generation leader" — after Mao, Deng Xiaoping, Mr. Jiang and Mr. Hu — up in the air.

Some party officials suggest that this could open the door to a form of "intraparty democracy," in which a bigger group of senior officials selects a candidate rather than affirming the choice of the top-most echelon.

China's authoritarian system lacks a reliable way to pick future leaders. After Mao's volatile rule, Deng Xiaoping overthrew Mao's chosen successor and became the top boss himself. He then dismissed two chosen successors of his own before settling on Mr. Jiang and anointing Mr. Hu to succeed Mr. Jiang.

Neither Mr. Jiang nor Mr. Hu has sufficient clout to name a future leader single-handedly. But Mr. Jiang, who retired from his last official post, as military chief, in 2004, retains sufficient sway to effectively veto Mr. Hu's choice. Party officials described Mr. Jiang, 80, as determined not to give Mr. Hu more say over his successor than Mr. Jiang had over the choice of Mr. Hu.

With the headline race undecided, competition to fill the other powerful slots on the Standing Committee has also run on longer than expected.

Mr. Hu once hoped to reduce the number of people who sit on the ruling body to seven from nine, making it easier to reach consensus on major policy matters. But Mr. Jiang increased the membership to nine from seven in 2002, partly so that he could stack the committee with his own loyalists. Party officials say he vetoed Mr. Hu's proposal to slim down the body.

Deaths and mandatory retirements have opened at least three positions on the Standing Committee that Mr. Hu and Mr. Jiang have competing candidates to fill.

The fate of a fourth member, Mr. Zeng, has prompted speculation for months. Mr. Zeng is seen as the most powerful party leader after Mr. Hu. He controls the daily affairs of the ruling party. More informally, he heads what is referred to as the princeling faction, consisting of people who, like himself, are the children of first-generation party elite.

Mr. Zeng served as the right-hand man of Mr. Jiang for many years. But he also became indispensable to Mr. Hu over the past five years, party officials said. Mr. Zeng helped Mr. Hu to implement a political program that includes paying more attention to the country's wealth gap, its rural poor and its degraded environment.

Mr. Zeng reached the formal retirement age of 68 this year, and party officials say he has stated repeatedly that he intends to step down.

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. Mr. Zeng's departure would also increase the likelihood that two officials seen as core Jiang loyalists, Jia Qinglin, who heads the group that manages the party's ties to other sectors of Chinese society, and Li Changchun, in charge of propaganda work, could retain their Standing Committee seats.

On the economic front, Mr. Wen has long been viewed as likely to continue as prime minister for another term. But he has recently come under attack within the party because he has failed to reduce economic growth to a more sustainable pace, party officials said.

Inflation, driven by surging food prices, has begun to create social discontent. China's trade surplus has ballooned to record levels, sparking widespread international concerns about manipulation of its currency.

Party officials said Mr. Wen is still likely to retain his post, but that the volatility in the run-up to the congress makes his hold on power less secure.

What fun! It appears nothing is nailed down even at this late stage, so prediction is probably futile. I like your idea of percentage likelihoods. But here I forecast a possible PBSC:
Hu Jintao
Wu Bangguo
Wen Jiabao
Xi Jinping
Li Keqiang
Li Changchun
Zhou Yongkang
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