The Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the 19th CPC Central Committee from left, Han Zheng, 63, the Communist Party Secretary of Shanghai; Wang Huning, 62, Director of the Central Policy Research Office; Li Zhanshu, 67, Director of the General Office of the Communist Party of China; President Xi Jinping, 64, General Secretary of the Communist Party of China ; Premier Li Keqiang, 62, Premier of the People's Republic of China; Wang Yang, 62, Vice Premier of the People's Republic of China; and Zhao Leji, 60, Secretary of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection.
For the first time at the end of a National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC), all seven Standing Committee members of the Political Bureau were born after the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949.
All were born and raised in the People's Republic of China. That means that none of them were WWII veterans and none were part of the Revolution. Instead, all were impacted as children from 1958 to 1962 by Chairman Mao's Great Leap Forward and as teens by Chairman Mao's Cultural Revolution from 1966 until 1976.
The Great Leap Forward was intended through the use of persuasion and force to rapidly transform the country from an agrarian economy into a socialist society through rapid industrialization and collectivization but instead caused economic regression, the Great Chinese Famine, and tens of millions of deaths. Welcome to childhood.
The goal of the Cultural Revolution was to preserve 'true' Communist ideology in the country by purging remnants of capitalist and traditional elements from Chinese society, and to re-impose Maoist thought as the dominant ideology within the Party. Millions of people were persecuted in the violent struggles that ensued across the country, and suffered a wide range of abuses including public humiliation, arbitrary imprisonment, torture, hard labor, sustained harassment, seizure of property and sometimes execution. A large segment of the population was forcibly displaced, most notably the transfer of urban youth to rural regions during the Down to the Countryside Movement. Historical relics and artifacts were destroyed. Cultural and religious sites were ransacked.
To understand the meaning of this history to these seven men, one only need to look at the experience of President Xi Jinping.
After the founding of the Communist state in 1949, Xi's father held a series of posts, including propaganda chief, vice-premier, and vice-chairman of the National People's Congress. Xi was born June 15, 1953. Based on normal expectations, Xi's future looked bright.
But when Xi was age 10, his father was purged from the Party and sent to work in a factory in Luoyang, Henan. In May 1966, Xi's "high school years" were cut short by the Cultural Revolution, when all secondary classes were halted for students to criticise and fight their teachers. Xi was age 15 when his father was jailed in 1968.
In 1969, lacking the protection of his father, Xi was sent to work in Yanchuan County, Shaanxi, in Mao Zedong's Down to the Countryside Movement. After a few months, unable to stand rural life, he ran away to Beijing. He was arrested during a crackdown on deserters from the countryside and sent to a work camp to dig ditches.
In 1981, the Party declared that the Cultural Revolution was "responsible for the most severe setback and the heaviest losses suffered by the Party, the country, and the people since the founding of the People's Republic" Welcome to adolescence.
Read the Wikipedia entry on Xi for more details (and the Wikipedia entry on Peng Liyuan his folksinger wife who until 2007 was more well-known). Also, in 2007 when it became evident that Xi was being groomed to assume the duties of his current job, an article appeared in The Guardian which helps provide some perspective from a British point of view: Most corrupt officials are from poor families but Chinese royals have a spirit that is not dominated by money.
The following graphic indicates the Party organization.
It is also true that none are in their fifties, a fact troubling to some American pundits. In more recent times being in that 50's age group would have indicated a Standing Committee member was being prepared to replace President Xi five years from now in 2022.
Of course, in 2022 only one of the Standing Committee members will be as old as Donald Trump was when he became U.S. President this year. In fact, in 2022 President Xi will be 69, two years younger than Trump is right now!
For more about these seven men, Hong Kong's South China Morning Post offers this: China's Leadership Reshuffle: Profiles.
More troubling to many is that none of these guys are women. In fact, at the next level down, in the 25 member Political Bureau (aka Politburo), the number of from two women members to one after the 19th National Congress.
Of the delegates to the Party Congress, only 24.1% were women. When comparing ruling parties, that is about the same ratio as the delegates to the 2016 Republican Party National Convention. (The 2016 National Convention of the losing Democratic Party had about 60% women.)
China's two most senior female politicians a month ago were vice premier Liu Yandong, 71, a scion of a political dynasty -- her father was a close ally of former Chinese President Jiang Zemin -- and Sun Chunlan, a rising Party chief.
In this week's leadership reshuffle, Liu retired from the Politburo, leaving Sun as the only female member. Sun Chunlan, 67, is head of the party’s United Front Work Department, the agency that serves as the Party's interface with individuals and organizations that are not Party members that have social, commercial, or academic influence, or who represent important interest groups, both inside and outside China.
Another woman politician better known to the West, Fu Ying, 64, an ethnic Mongol born in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region of China, is not a member of the Politburo, although she has held Ambassador posts to Australia and the Philippines and currently holds the position of vice foreign minister after a long career in the Chinese diplomatic service. In 2010 the Financial Times offered an extensive article Lunch with the FT: Madam Fu Ying which included this giving us an insight into her formative years:
It is clear that the generation now leading China had a less than enchanting experience with Mao's brand of authoritarianism under the name communism. On the other hand, for these and most Chinese people, China has a 7,000 year history, most of which has been as a moderately successful single autocratic state under an emperor. [To learn more about China, its history and culture, watch the six episode Story of China at PBS.org.]Fu Ying was born in 1953 in Hohhot, the capital of Inner Mongolia, an “autonomous region” of China. Her parents were bilingual, speaking Mandarin and Mongolian. Her father wrote poetry. She can, she tells me, still remember the day that a tall, ethnically Chinese man arrived at the family home to take her father away. It was 1967 and the height of the Cultural Revolution, the bloody chaos unleashed by Mao to purge the party and consolidate power.
“The [tall] man looked into my eyes and said, ‘Democracy is great. Do you know what is democracy?’ I shook my head; I didn’t know. And he said, ‘That’s the change of history. You will be swept away by the change of history.’” (Democracy, during the Cultural Revolution, was equivalent to anarchy. No wonder, I muse to myself, it does not carry the same positive connotations in China as in the west.)
A tear appears in Madam Fu’s eye. She recounts how school was shut down and she was taken away, aged 17, to a remote town in the mountains, Wulashan, five hours distant by train. There she worked in the fields – “very, very physical, really stressful and extreme for a young girl” – before helping to build a new factory where she was employed as an announcer, broadcasting information to her co-workers about the weather and the like through a loudspeaker.
But then, in 1973, she had her first break. The Cultural Revolution was in its last throes and previously frowned-upon practices such as examinations to test pupil ability were revived. Fu Ying excelled, having squirrelled away first Russian and then French classics from a library in Wulashan. She also excelled in English, having picked up the basics on Chinese radio. She gained a place to study for four years at Beijing Foreign Studies University.
After the death of Chairman Mao in 1976, China started to open to the rest of the world. Suddenly, interpreters were in heavy demand. Madam Fu joined the elite translation department of the diplomatic service.
While most of us who live in the Progressive Pacific states have some awareness of China, it is important to understand how the current Chinese leadership generation sees the world. Among others, Fu Ying has been tasked with assisting us. In 2016 in Foreign Affairs her article How China Sees Russia she provides clear insight into information we should understand:
In the middle of the 2008 financial crisis Xi said: "First, China doesn't export revolution; second, China doesn't export hunger and poverty; third, China doesn't come and cause you headaches. What more is there to be said?"...China has no interest in a formal alliance with Russia, nor in forming an anti-U.S. or anti-Western bloc of any kind. Rather, Beijing hopes that China and Russia can maintain their relationship in a way that will provide a safe environment for the two big neighbors to achieve their development goals and to support each other through mutually beneficial cooperation, offering a model for how major countries can manage their differences and cooperate in ways that strengthen the international system.
On several occasions between the end of the nineteenth century and the middle of the twentieth century, China entered into an alliance with the Russian empire and its successor, the Soviet Union. But every time, the arrangement proved short-lived, as each amounted to nothing more than an expediency between countries of unequal strength. In the decades that followed, the two powerful communist-led countries muddled through, occasionally cooperating but often riven by rivalry and mistrust. In 1989, in the waning years of Soviet rule, they finally restored normalcy to their relations. They jointly declared that they would develop bilateral relations based on “mutual respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, mutual nonaggression, noninterference in each other’s internal affairs, equality and mutual benefit, and peaceful coexistence.” Two years later, the Soviet Union disintegrated, but Chinese-Russian relations carried on with the principle of “no alliance, no conflict, and no targeting any third country.”
Soon thereafter, the newborn Russian Federation embraced the so-called Atlanticist approach. To win the trust and help of the West, Russia not only followed Western prescriptions for economic reform but also made concessions on major security issues, including reducing its stockpile of strategic nuclear weapons. However, things didn’t turn out the way the Russians had hoped, as the country’s economy tanked and its regional influence waned. In 1992, disappointed with what they saw as unfulfilled pledges of American and European assistance and irritated by talk of NATO’s eastward expansion, the Russians began to pay more attention to Asia. That year, China and Russia announced that each would regard the other as a “friendly country” and issued a joint political statement stipulating that “the freedom of people to choose their own development paths should be respected, while differences in social systems and ideologies should not hamper the normal progress of relations.”
Ever since, Chinese-Russian relations have gradually improved and deepened. During the past 20 years or so, bilateral trade and investment have expanded on a massive scale. In 2011, China became Russia’s largest trading partner. In 2014 alone, China’s investment in Russia grew by 80 percent—and the trend toward more investment remains strong. To get a sense of the growth in economic ties, consider that in the early 1990s, annual bilateral trade between China and Russia amounted to around $5 billion; by 2014, it came close to $100 billion. That year, Beijing and Moscow signed a landmark agreement to construct a pipeline that, by 2018, will bring as much as 38 billion cubic meters of Russian natural gas to China every year. The two countries are also planning significant deals involving nuclear power generation, aerospace manufacturing, high-speed rail, and infrastructure development. Furthermore, they are cooperating on new multinational financial institutions, such as the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, the New Development Bank BRICS, and the BRICS foreign exchange reserve pool.
This past week Xi reaffirmed that Beijing will never seek hegemony or engage in expansion "no matter what stage of development it reaches" and that "China will never pursue development at the expense of others' interests and its development does not pose a threat to any other country."
In her 2010 article Fu Ying noted:
If one pays attention to what this new generation of Chinese leadership communicates, we can create a consistent set of China-centered goals that evolve from this 2008 statement:In remarks during [his visit to the United States in 2009], Xi directly addressed the idea that China’s development presents a challenge to the United States’ global leadership. “The path China follows is one of peaceful development, and China does not pose a threat to other countries,” Xi said. Later, he added, “People should give up the old concepts of ‘you lose, I win,’ or zero-sum game, and establish a new concept of peaceful development and win-win cooperation. If China develops well, it will benefit the whole world and benefit the United States. If the United States develops well, it will also benefit the world and China.”
In 2012 Xi's goal for 2020 was made clear:
And now, in 2017, Xi set forth for 2049 the goal of achieving "a great modern socialist country that is prosperous, strong, democratic, culturally advanced, harmonious, and beautiful."
We need to know and understand these people.
First published Friday, October 27, 2017, in my California First blog, this post is part of a series on the 21st Century political, economic and cultural objectives that have been set by China. It is being republished here for continuity as that series will continue here.