China has a new set of leaders. Do the Chinese care?by Gabriel Corsetti / November 19, 2012 / Leave a comment
The 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China has drawn to a close, and a new set of unfamiliar grey bureaucrats now run the country. For a week, the Chinese media was full of predictably soporific reports on the “shiba da” (the “eighteenth big,” as the Congress is known). News of the important decisions was buried amidst incessant talk of “optimisation,” “scientific development” and “civilized and harmonious” matters.
The contrast between the Chinese leadership transition and the US presidential election is stark, and has been remarked upon here in China. It is hard to get excited about the shift to a new generation of leaders when no one really knows much about them or what they stand for. I have lived in China for four years, I understand Chinese, I follow the Chinese news and I take an interest in current affairs, and yet I have never heard of any of the new members of the Politburo Standing Committee, the committee of nine people which constitutes the highest decision-making body in China. During this Congress, seven of the committee’s nine members stepped down and were replaced, including Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao, the president and prime minister.