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China’s New Guard Takes Power

November 16, 2016

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There’s a new team in Chinese government, but will they be able to solve some of the endemic problems that have been plaguing China’s rise to the economic top?

Xi Jinping was announced as the new Communist party secretary on the 15th of this month, and it looks like he already has some fairly radical ideas for China’s direction.

As he said while introducing the new standing committee in the Great Hall:

“Our Party faces many severe challenges, and there are also many pressing problems within the Party that need to be resolved, particularly corruption, being divorced from the people, going through formalities and bureaucratism caused by some Party officials. We must make every effort to solve these problems. The whole Party must stay on full alert.”

Image via James D Schwartz

Both him and his appointed members of the Politburo Standing Committee are certainly a change from the old party warhorses that previously made up its ranks.

For example, compare Li Keqiang to some of the exiting political luminaries; this second in command has a handle on English, a law degree, a doctorate in economics from Peking University.

An uphill struggle

It’s extremely clear that despite the new Committee being pretty liberal compared to its past, Chinese politics remain fairly conservative. From local levels to the higher ranks in government, advancement within the Communist Party has traditionally depended on following the party line and not making waves.

Therefore, any economic reforms pushed through will have to cut through decades of carefully constructed internal political alliances, corruption and an intricate bureaucratic structure.

Top of the industrial pile

If China wants to remain at the top of the manufacturing stakes the government will probably eventually need to change the way it looks at economics.

After all, the novelty of inexpensive Chinese-made products will eventually lose its sheen if the products being created are not up to the quality of competitor countries due to lacking industrial standards. High-level shipbuilding for Western companies, for instance, will often be completed in South Korea at a higher price rather than go to the trouble of replacing Chinese-made ships more often.

Spotlight on workers’ rights

Chinese factory conditions have started to come under scrutiny more and more as workers’ rights advocates have been taking hold of the Internet to disseminate news.

China still has a huge workforce of skilled and unskilled labour to draw from, and plenty of funding for growth from its current manufacturing sector, and improving the way companies work within the Chinese borders has the potential to result in far more sustained growth, which will be important for supporting the most populous nation in the world.

Do you think the new Committee will have any lasting effect on China, or will it be more of the same? Let me know what you think.

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