A couple weeks ago I went to a talk by Joseph Fewsmith on Leadership Change in China, and it’s implications for US-China relations. China had it’s 19th Party Congress in October, which is basically a meeting among China’s top officials to decide on new officials and policies. The congress is held every 5 years, and a new president is installed every other congress. The party congress this year did not see a new president, but did have several other important developments. The Chinese government is basically organized with a president at the top (currently Xi Jinping), and four branches that all work under the president. The legislative branch (People’s National Congress), the Executive branch (the State council, whose chair is known as the Premier), the judicial branch, and the military branch. The politburo is also an important body, composed of about 25 officials. This is a decision making body, and the Politburo standing committee is a smaller group of seven from the full politburo who have a lot of decision making power. There are also of course important positions heading the different branches, and managing different provinces of China. Who gets into these positions is pretty much decided by other people on power, but there are some informal preferences for seniority, and somewhat formal age limits for officials. The main developments of the 19th party congress was the reshuffling of important officials. The basic idea is that Xi Jinping was able to promote a lot of people who agree with him without breaking the seniority of ageing out rules, so he cemented his power while avoiding backlash from the rest of the party.
There was a lot more to Dr. Fewsmith’s talk than just that, but unfortunately, I didn’t know enough about Chinese politics to really grasp all of it. The talk really was good, and the speaker definitely knew a lot about the subject, and was able to go into a lot of the nuances of the decisions made at the congress. I wish I could tell you about them, but I definitely didn’t know enough to understand any of them. Overall, I’m glad I went, because it was very interesting, and showed me that I really should learn more about Chinese politics.