Tension is high as China prepares for the 18th National Party Congress in Beijing. It is there that China’s leadership will change drastically as their President prepares to step down, and his replacement to step up. In a country without major elections this changeover is carefully choreographed with the new leader hand picked far in advance. This year there has been quite some drama associated with the handover. First there was the rather strange incident involving top government official Bo Xilai whose wife was a chief suspect in a murder case. The incident was the first in a series of events that exposed corruption within Bo Xilai’s administration and eventually led to his arrest.
Over a month ago there was the brief, but strange disappearance of Xi Jinping, the man who appears to be locked in to be China’s next President. Then last week there was a shuffle in the Chinese military leadership, a move that is not in and of itself at all suspicious. Yet in a country where the government is so often behind closed doors it is hard to tell how significant anything truly is. Some look at seemingly the most insignificant pieces of evidence to try and understand the jockeying for position that is occurring.
Recent reports are showing however that Chinese leaders are very much on their guard as the time for the handover approaches. The selling of knives and RC airplanes has been banned and the term for the upcoming 18th National Party Congress has even been censored online. The reason for all these precautions has not been explained and it is not clear if there is any real danger, but it will be something to look out for as the handover nears.
All of this leads to a larger question about how stable China’s central government really is. Demonstrations in Hong Kong during the change over of leadership there showed that there are those willing to voice their frustration at the government. However it is much easier to demonstrate in the former Colony of Hong Kong than it is on the mainland.
However there are signs of unrest, for although China’s economy has seen rapid and real growth in the last few decades the money has been slow to trickle down to the majority of Chinese citizens. One example is that although unions are illegal there have been reports of strikes at sweatshops and factories. One can only wonder then if social reforms may be in order for a country who has been focused on economic reforms for so long.