New leadership in China

China has new leaders. That’s not to say that the old ones have completely disappeared. There’s lots of commentary and news coverage on the subject, and I don’t want to simply regurgitate that material. Rather a simple point of observation, but one which is invariably overlooked.

When Mao Tse-Tung died in 1976 what followed was a classic power struggle, with different factions fighting for control. The appointment of Hua Guofeng seemd to put China an a conservative projector, Hua being backed by the infamous Gang of Four headed by Mao’s wife, Jiang Qing. Within three years Deng Xiaoping was in control of the country, the era of reform embarked upon and the rest is history.

This week what we have observed is a monumental reform that cannot be overestimated. China has created a process by which power has moved from the “strong man” model we saw under Mao to a power-sharing model requiring consensus in the leadership. But more than this, we see established rules for the transfer of power, a timetable for that transfer and the retirement age of leaders established. And all this has been done quietly and efficiently.

For those who ask, “when will China change?” the point has been missed. China has changed, and what’s more, China is committed to continuing that change process.

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