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The Evolving Shape of Elite Politics

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Introduction

The Evolving Shape of Elite Politics Joseph Fewsmith Summarized by Lisa Richardson This paper looks at four changes within China in the past decade that has contributed to the political changes emerging in China. First the generational changes within the top leadership of China, second the economic development and differentiation. Third the events of Tianenmen square in 1989 and their subsequent influence. Fourth the changing domestic and international political environments that have emerged post-Cold War. These four factors have interacted and impacted each other in creating the current political environment. While Deng Xiaoping, the "paramount Leader" considered he and many of his cohorts the "second generation" of leadership, in reality they were still from the first generation. With the passing of Li Xiannian (Jiang's closest political supporter), Hu Qiaomu, Chen Yun, and Deng's death in 1997, the revolutionary generation no longer dominated the political scene. Jiang Zemin and his generation were technocrats who were promoted through bureaucratic service. They were trained to focus on the many problems China was facing, rather than the ideological agendas previous leaders had focused on. Without revolutionary contributions these new leaders needed to legitimize their role. This was done through enforcement of norms and procedures, as well as a forge of policies and consensus. ...read more.

Middle

The plenum views Marxism as a methodology for understanding the world rather than a set of conclusions. Jiang went further and declared class struggle dead, and there by opening up the door for capitalists to enter the Party. He also called for a re-evaluation of Marxist theory on labor and labor value. Fewsmiths logic follows; if wages are determined by supply and demand (neoclassical view) there cannot be exploitation. If the exploitation idea is not Party doctrine, there leaves little need for a Communist Party. Jiang called for inner-Party reform to further democratic reform, it was thought by some that Party reform was needed to increase its legitimacy. (But a democratic opening any time soon shouldn't be expected). With an absence of revolutionary legitimacy, ideology has lost its persuasive influence, and Party discipline has declined, personal power and ties appears to be more important. Tang Tsou identified the central characteristic of 20th century Chinese politics as "monistic, unified and indivisible". We can see examples of this in Jiang's reshaping of an ideology, marking it as his, and securing his authority through promoting his prot�g�s. There exists a cultural framework, a personalistic system and ideological system to support the Party line. Factionalism is not tolerated so efforts to thwart that line are a threat to enter into a "game to win all." ...read more.

Conclusion

The new generation is more technocrats and we have seen an increase of norms and procedures and consensus being followed yet party lines run long and deep. Is there really a generational change among Chinas leaders or are they being replaced with Prot�g�s from the past such as Deng Xi8aopia's in Hu. Even with Deng being dead, he still lives on through his prot�g� Jiang and now Hu. Hu is not a loyalist to Jiang, with Jiang being unable to promote his followers to high positions or to replace him it would appear as if Jiang's power is weak or is it that norms and institutions are becoming more powerful than the old personalistic system? The author mentioned Tianenmen demonstrations and the collapse of the Soviet Union being important factors in creating change in elite politics. Previously the only options available seemed conservative or reform but after these events, social, political and economic collapse seemed another option. For this reason stability is very important in Chinese politics. They will avoid any rapid political change to avoid chaos. There is a strong need to reform, especially government enterprises. With such a large percentage of people being out of work because of these reforms, and more potential changes on the way with membership to the WTO, how is the government going to be able to keep such tight control and maintain stability? 1 ...read more.

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