Ten years ago, Jiang Zemin – the neo-corporatist cadre who came to personally symbolize the corruption and thievery of the Chinese Communist Party – stood down as party leader (but not military chief) in favor of Hu Jintao, who promised a cleaner (but arguably presided over a meaner) regime.
This week, Jiang’s revenge was complete. Not only is the new Politburo Standing Committee largely filled with “his” people (CNN) – including the big fish, Xi Jinping – but he even saw Hu Jintao step down as Chairman of the Central Military Commission in Xi’s favor (National Post, BBC).
Willy Lam – who was a CNN reporter the last time Jiang was this powerful, and is now a professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong – called it a “a conservative team.” Given that Lam is one of the few analysts smart enough to know that “conservative” means leftist/anti-democratic in the CCP, his words carry weight. As he put it, “We can expect no substantial or meaningful movement toward political reform” (CNN).
Truth be told, I was never really optimistic that Hu Jintao was serious about political reform either. All his talk of “intra-party democracy” made me cold (choosing corrupt cadre A over corrupt cadre B is not my definition of democracy). Moreover, Hu’s behavior during the Hanyuan County Massacre made it clear that even if Hu managed to clean up his party’s image, it would still be the bloodthirsty regime we’ve all come to know and loathe.
That Hu decided (or was convinced) to leave the CMC Chair only adds to the complete rout. Jiang was at least able to hang on to the real post of power in Communist China for two years after handing over the Party leadership post to Hu. Nearly everyone, myself included, thought Hu would do the same thing. That he couldn’t speaks volumes of his weakness within the regime.
It also says something about the Chinese Communist Party. Hu’s atttempt to reshape the organization as more Maoist, populist, and clean has failed utterly. Clearly the economic downturn hit his faction hard. Now that Jiang’s people are ascendant once again, look for more “development” and less concern about corruption.
Oh, and if the Epoch Times folks are right about the factions’ positions on Falun Gong…well, that spiritual movement is in for an even rougher ride.
As for the free world, it’s tough to see any change. Most, if not all, of the CCP’s links with anti-American terrorists (states or groups) came during Jiang’s tenure at the CMC Chair. Hu did little stop those; and one could argue he was even more aggressive geopolitically than Jiang, but that was likely due as much to increased opportunity as a difference in viewpoint. In other words, steady as she crashes.