Ambitions for China's economy
When the seven men in blue suits walked out on the stage after the 18th Communist Party Congress, and Xi Jinping, the freshly installed leader of the world’s most populous nation, began his soothing remarks, it was a carefully orchestrated picture of calm, orderly progress to show a team was in place to secure a stable China in 2013 and beyond.
So will this be the Magnificent Seven who steer the world’s second-biggest economy through possibly choppy waters in 2013, all the while maintaining an iron grip on a population whose economic and social situation has changed dramatically while the party has seemingly remained immobile and unbending.
Xi is keen to give the party a more modern appeal to help it appeal to young, web-savvy middle-class Chinese, a core support for the party.
“I guess they are, amazingly, showing some clear intent at the moment with all this bold rhetoric about corruption, etcetera and, more amazingly, the stuff about needing to use clear language. But call me a cynic: I am not holding my breath for anything superbold any time soon,” says Kerry Brown, executive director of the China Studies Centre and a professor of Chinese politics at the University of Sydney.
The solid front presented by the Standing Committee of the Politburo masked discord in the ranks of the party and questions about what the future may hold.
There are domestic questions that will probably go unanswered, such as what really happened with Bo Xilai, the one-time rising star and Xi’s fellow princeling who has been comprehensively purged and his power base shattered. And where did Xi go during the fortnight he went missing in September?
There are also broader international questions for 2013 that need to be answered. How secure are the state banking system and the shadow-banking sector? What are the prospects for the economy? What exactly is China’s foreign policy and what territorial ambitions does the country hold for the region?
The era of president Hu Jintao and premier Wen Jiabao did not yield much in terms of reform but it was a period of spectacular growth and wealth creation until the economy started to falter, hitting a three-year low of growth of 7.4 per cent in the third quarter of 2012.
Xi, eager to underline his ambitions for the economy, visited Shenzhen in southern China, just like former supreme leader and icon Deng Xiaoping, and called for calm in the face of adversity.
“We should recognise that adverse domestic and overseas effects will be long-term, complicated and winding. We should not run from conflicts and cover up problems,” he said during his visit.