Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Thoughts of China for after its 2012 power transitions 1: welcome to the goldfish bowl

Posted in macroeconomics by Timothy Platt on October 26, 2012

I have been writing about China for two years now in this blog, starting with a series: The China Conundrum and its Implications for International Cyber-Security (see Ubiquitous Computing and Communications – everywhere all the time, postings 69 and loosely following for Parts 1-23 plus one supplemental installment.) And for the last eight months I have also been writing about China and its business and economic practices and policies, posting that to my Macroeconomics and Business directory. And a lot of what I have been writing about in all of this, constitutes an ongoing discussion of China’s strengths and challenges as it approaches its upcoming power transitions beginning in the autumn of 2012 and continuing into 2013. I cite as more specific background references related to that, three particular series that I developed together as an organized progression:

• China and our Increasingly Interconnected Global Economy (Macroeconomics and Business, postings 48 and loosely following for Parts 1-5),
• China in Transition (postings 63 and loosely following for Parts 1-6), and
• Perceiving China – East and West (postings 78 and loosely following for Parts 1-7.)

China is rapidly approaching one of the most important and far-reaching transitions in its leadership in its modern history, with the age-dictated retirement of much of its current leadership taking place as it goes into its 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China. Citing just one detail from the more comprehensive discussion of the transition itself, as repeated from China in Transition, seven of the nine current members of the most powerful leadership body in China, its Politburo Standing Committee will have to stand down and be replaced by a new generation of leaders, including essentially all of that committee’s most senior leadership positions. And these seven power shifts simply represent a more visible tip of a much larger iceberg, with much more submerged below the surface of more general news coverage. China will go through power changes throughout its national and provincial Party and governmental leaderships. And this brings me to two crucial points:

• This is all taking place as China approaches a series of developing challenges that have been developing for years now, and that both collectively and even just individually hold real crisis potential. And on top of that, China is also currently roiled by several scandals that impact upon the basic credibility of its system of law and governance.
• And this is all taking place as China’s enters its first major generational change in leadership to transpire under the spotlight and openly visible publicity of the internet and online social media, and with hundreds of millions of Chinese citizens owning and using cell phones.

So all of this is taking place on a very public stage, and in ways that bypass China’s ongoing institutional efforts to control information flow and the public conversation. And I add that China’s Golden Shield Project: the Great Firewall of China, as discussed in my Conundrum series, above, is only one component of that larger effort, even if one of the largest bricks in that intended wall.)

My goal in this posting is to set the stage for discussion to come. I will, over the installments of this series, explore some of this story and its consequences as China’s new leadership prepares to face these issues and in 2013 and beyond. I am going to start that with my next series installment with a selective discussion of some of the news and events that China’s incoming senior leadership will have to address, and more publically than their past experience could possibly have allowed or prepared them for. Meanwhile, you can find this posting and related at Macroeconomics and Business.

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