The Chinese Communist Party opened a pivotal Congress, which will usher in a new set of Chinese leaders.
Anchor Aaron Schachter speaks with The World’s Mary Kay Magistad in Beijing.
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Aaron Schachter: I’m Aaron Schachter. This is the World. President Obama is back in Washington today. His reelection means there’s no change at the very top of the US government, of course. Voters didn’t change much in Congress either. Different story in China where a massive leadership change officially got underway today. The Chinese communist party opened a pivotal congress, which will usher in a new set of Chinese leaders. The World’s Mary Kay Magistad is in Beijing. Mary Kay, there are obvious differences between the US elections this week and the Chinese process, to say the least. Tell us about today’s event.
Mary Kay Magistad: One of the big differences between China and the United States in terms of the leadership transition is, you, know, in the US, it’s very clear what the candidates’ positions are or at least what they say they are. There are a lot of debates. There’s a lot of information out in the public sphere. The public can comment. The public can criticize, and nothing happens to those who criticize or comment. In China, we don’t even know entirely for sure who’s making the decision about who the next leaders will be. We do know with a fair bit of likelihood that the top two leaders will be Xi Jhing Ping and Li Kyu Chung. We don’t know whether the least of the public burrow standing committee will be a total of seven people or nine. We don’t know which faction is going to win out in terms of getting their guys in. We don’t even actually know how the factions break down in terms of what they want, who is more reform-minded and who isn’t. But even at this late date, less than a week before the final leaders are announced, it seems that some of this is still in play. Some deals are still being done in back rooms.
Schachtner: So, Mary Kay, who was at the conference, and what does the organization of the deck chairs mean?
Magistad: Well, something that was kind of interesting about this particular party congress is how many of the old guards were there. And these are people who were in power ten years ago, fifteen years ago, there was Li Pong, the guy who at Dung Xiao Ping’s behest got on Chinese national television and said, “We’re ordering the troops into Tienanmen square to crack down on the demonstrators.” He was there sort of smiling faintly as he watched the proceedings. Jun Xe Min who’s 86 years old who was the previous head of the party. He left office ten years ago. He was there. Du Wong Ji who was the previous premier and the economic tzar in the 1990s and who actually, to his credit, pushed through a lot of tough economic reforms. He was there. Interestingly, he was probably the only senior leader who had allowed his hair to go gray. Everyone else was dying theirs black. He was also the only one wearing a sweater vest under his jacket. But the other guys, you know, they were making quite a show of being in smart suits and, you know, with their hair dyed black and basically making the point of we’re here. You can’t ignore us. You know, I mean think about what this would be like in the American context. It would be basically, you know, George Bush the elder and Jimmy Carter going into the Oval Office and saying OK, Barack. We’re going to tell you who you’re going to have in your cabinet, and you have to listen to us.
Schatchner: Now, before the congress got started, you told us about all these security measures that the government was going through to ensure that there was no leaf letting or anything like that. Has there been any noticeable public response to the congress, any errant ping pong balls bouncing around Tienanmen square?
Magistad: Haven’t seen any ping pong balls or balloons being released with hidden messages or leaflets thrown out of windows, but you know, the police certainly did seem to think of every possible way that a dissident could voice his or her discontent, and so far not too much of that happening
Schatcher: The World’s Mary Kay Magistad in Beijing. Thank you.
Magistad: Thanks Aaron.
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