The 18th Communist Party of China (CPC) National Congress is being held in Beijing these days. The day after tomorrow (November 15th), the member list of the Politburo Standing Committee of the CPC Central Committee will be released, and all new members, including the next president of China, will meet the media. This congress is believed to be a turning point for China to summarize the past 10 years and to make plans for the next 10 years under the leadership of new leaders. It’s significantly important for China in political, economic and social fields.
Politically speaking, the congress is a process to rebuild the legitimacy of CPC Central Committee. Before this congress, from the early of this year to now, a striking event hurt CPC Central Committee that BO Xilai, a popular and powerful political leader, lost his power because his assistant WANG Lijun broke with him and ran into USA Consulate in Chengdu and asked for political asylum, then all political interest groups were into this unprecedented case, finally more scandals about BO Xilai and his family came out. It’s a striking political scandal because before it, BO Xilai was believed to become one of the new members of the Politburo Standing Committee of the CPC Central Committee after this congress, but this scandal makes this impossible. During this case, there were many rumors about the struggle and negotiation among different interest groups inside CPC. The situation became complex for the preparation for this congress since CPC always thinks harmony inside CPC is crucial for the transition of leaders. After 10-month negotiation, BO Xilai case has been settled down and officially sent into court for jurisdiction. This congress becomes again a stage to show the harmony of CPC Central Committee.
As for economic influence, this congress opens the gate for welcoming new opportunities of economic reform. After over-30-year fast economic development, new leaders are reflecting on the old mode and looking for impetus for next stage of economic progress. In recent report of the congress, new leaders finally realize that China could not carry on the high-speed but unsustainable economic development, and China will go into the period of moderate-speed development. Before this congress, there are lots of debates about which way for China to go, the first is to go back to planned economic status or similar ones, the second is to carry on reforming with free market principles which has dominated for the past 30 years in China, the third is to find new way to protect both efficiency and equity. In the recent report, the new leaders (though we don’t know who they are yet) seems to abandon both the first and the second way, but choose the third one. It could be believed that the economic policy will neither obey the planned economic mode, nor the totally free market mode, but will put more focus on equity than the past 30 years.
To enhance equity, more social reform will be carried out after this congress. In the latest report, we could read the upcoming reforms in many main fields. For example, firstly, population policy will be reformed soon, especially about aging population and birth planning reform. The background for this is that the aging population is huge in China now and China has become an aging society. On the other hand, One Child Policy has brought lots of problems to China, such as the burden for young people to meet the needs of at least 4 old people (in a family, a husband and a wife have to care about their 2 fathers and 2 mothers if they are the only children in their home) when the traditional Xiao Culture (to accompany parents emotionally and to give money to make their life easier) is taken into consideration. Secondly, education will be reformed, especially on offering chances for students to take National Entrance Examiniation (Gaokao) in places which are different from the locations of their citizenships (hukou). The background for this is that hukou is like citizenship, but they are not totally the same. All rights of education, social welfare and so on are combined with hukou. Hukou was actually a tool for country to control the whole society. So far, if the location of hukou is not in Beijing, even though the student has taken courses in Beijing for over 10 years, he still has no right to take the national Entrance Examination in Beijing. And the education system of China has problems too. Since there are millions of students to take the National Entrance Examination and to go to colleges but the resources of education are limited, to make sure more students could go to college and will not has nothing to do, in big cities such as Beijing and Shanghai, more chances to go to local good colleges (top colleges are almost all in big cities) are given to students with hukou in these big cities. Then without hukou in these places, students have to go back to location of hukou and compete with much more students. It’s unfair. It’s been discussed for a long time whether to abandon this regulation, but no real action in policy-making has been taken to solve it. There are much more reform information in the report of this congress. If you are interested, you could read it (in Chinese, you could google translate it
Though there will be these political, economic and social reform to more highlight equity in next 10 years, criticism is still around the question: interest groups have gained tremendous advantages over the past 30 years, will new leaders have the determination and methods to deal with the interest groups and make concept of equity into practice? That’s why people are curious about the whole name list of the members of the Politburo Standing Committee of CPC Central Committee and about their actions towards reform. It’s not easy transition. The congress has only released the direction of CPC reform. It is still worth waiting to see whether these promises could be achieved.