Change must be balanced with continuity

Source:Global Times Published: 2012-11-13 0:05:04

In political academia, there are various theories and interpretations regarding the Communist Party of China's (CPC) procedures during the leadership transition. In particular the institutionalization of the CPC's leadership changeovers is drawing increasing attention.

In a general sense, curiosity toward power is part of human nature. In order to prevent a chaotic "law of the jungle," certain rules regarding power transitions are indispensable.

China has a 2,000-year history of monarchy. In the early 20th century, the short-lived Revolution of 1911 tried to overturn the old rules in the pursuit of freedom and democracy. But this was brief compared with the long history of imperial reign.

As for the CPC's leadership transition, although transparency is to be further boosted, the trend toward institutionalization has become increasingly apparent. The era in which a powerful leader appointed a successor no longer exists.

An official's age, work record and basis for public support have become three essential elements for his or her appointment.

Here, the gauging of public opinion is mainly through communication and consultation, rather than an open, adversarial voting system. This has already become the consensus at different levels of the Party including the top.

The smooth transition of power, and regular changes in the lineup of leaders, are what determines how institutionalized leadership changes are.

Looking back into the CPC's history over the past 91 years, it is easy to see that now, non-institutional appointments or deposals have stopped, and public opinion requires a smooth leadership transition.

These will present an even greater constraining force for the CPC's power transitions in the future.

In China, there is a high level of consensus regarding the need for a smooth power transition in the CPC. In this open era, public opinion has made it impossible for an outside contender or "dark horse" to be involved in the leadership transition.

Some scholars point out that by the fourth generation of the CPC leadership, the change from directly appointing the new leadership to choosing the next leadership through consultation has been accomplished, which provides a good opportunity to promote intra-Party democracy.

Looking into China's leadership transitions in the past century, the decline of strongman politics is an irreversible trend. However, there is a long way to go in the process of democratization, during which the system of consultation serves as a transitional system arrangement.

Consultation is a process of seeking common ground while preserving differences. Building intra-Party democracy also means a boost from a low level of consultation into full consultation, so as to ensure transparency and rigid restrictions by rules.

The Chinese model of leadership transition is also in accordance with the current reality of policy-making. The system of directly appointing the new leadership mainly seeks continuity in politics, whereas the system of consultation leaves certain space beforehand for reform.

China's reform process itself involves balancing political continuity and change. Three decades ago, former Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping proposed the policy of reform and opening-up. Its effects now represent the collective memories of two generations of Chinese, and it has won wide public support. This represents the biggest certainty in terms of Chinese politics.

The article was compiled by Global Times reporter Chen Chenchen based on an interview with Lü Xiaobo, a professor with the School of Government, Nanjing University.


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