Review: “China’s Fifth Generation: Is Diversity a Source of Strength or Weakness?”

The article that I will discuss in this paper is entitled “China’s Fifth Generation: Is Diversity a Source of Strength or Weakness?” This article’s research is on fifth generation leaders, particularly Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang, which are both proposed as possible candidates for replacing Hu Jintao in the future. By focusing on each possible candidate’s characteristics, policies and backgrounds, the article gives the reader an in-depth look of what kind of people are involved with politics in the PRC as well as where PRC politics may be heading in the future.

In my opinion, the author emphasizes quite a bit on Xi Jinping and feels that he is the most likely candidate for replacing Hu Jintao. Firstly, despite Mr. Xi being part of the “lost generation” and losing out on roughly 6 years of his education, he nevertheless went on to pursue his studies after the Cultural Revolution, so much that he even attained a Ph. D; a characteristic of many of the fifth generation officials that the author finds particularly interesting. This shows that Mr Xi is a person of endurance and perseverance and that he is able to face monumental challenges, which is a strong characteristic for a future leader to possess and show to the public.

In addition, the author does point out that many of the hardships that people like Mr Xi had to face during the Cultural Revolution have as a result, shaped their political and economic views. This perhaps explains why Mr. Xi’s primary policies and concerns are based on “promoting economic efficiency, private sector development, market liberalization, attaining a high rate of GDP growth, and integrating China further into the world economy” (pg. 211). These policies are to a large extent reflected from his socio-economic history and in the author’s opinion, he believes that Mr. Xi no doubt feels the PRC has lacked economically for far too long mainly due to its tumultuous history under the Mao regime and hence, should thus change drastically and quickly in the years to come. Since the PRC is at present most concerned with developing its economy at a rapid pace and its’ interests are very similar to what Mr. Xi supports, Mr. Xi therefore sticks out as one of the strongest and most suitable candidates.

However, a lot of criticism has been made against Mr. Xi due to the fact that his class background and status is referred to as a “Princeling”. The author points out that Princelings’ “privileged life experiences and rapid upward career advancements have elicited vocal criticism from both the Chinese public and delegates to the Party Congress” (pg. 210). This, to me, is an indication that a lot of Chinese, especially those of peasant and middle-lower class, which constitute the vast majority of China’s population, are in disapproval of Mr. Xi. It seems that Mr Xi’s has a “top-down” approach in economic policies, which means that his economic plans are more in favor for those who are already strongly economically stable (which constitutes those such as the elite and upper class) and doesn’t seem to benefit the vast majority of the public (the peasants and the middle class, which constitute the bottom and middle) improve their economic situation. With this in mind, his policies are ostensibly popular amongst the elites, which are few in China, and they aren’t popular amongst the general public.

This is a big contrast in comparison with his biggest competitor, Li Keqiang, who supports a more “bottom-up” approach by wanting to improve the availability of housing, health care, and jobs for those who are in need. In other words, for Li Keqiang, “reducing economic disparities is a more urgent priority than enhancing economic efficiency” (pg. 212). Although Li has a similar background with being sent to work in labor camps and coming out of a tumultuous period later to receive higher education like Xi Jinping, Mr Li nevertheless, seems to be more opposed to current PRC economic policies, which most likely will not result in him being elected as the next Premier of the PRC. More so, Mr. Li does not come from a Princeling background, which is another factor in terms of him getting an upper hand in a high political seat. Although Mr. Li has credentials and the knowledge to be a competent leader, he doesn’t however, have the same connections and economic interests that are shared by ruling elites within the PRC and thus, will most likely not be chosen over Xi Jinping. This is not only the opinion of myself, but it also seems to be the sentiment the author expresses through the article.

With that said, between the two fifth generation leaders that are mentioned in this article, Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang, the biggest difference has to do with economic policies and more so, class status. The diverse backgrounds in education and experience between the Mr Xi and Mr. Li are strengths for the PRC because both of them are well-rounded, educated and hard- working people and both can contribute a lot of ideas. However, the weakness aspect lies within class status and the ability to work one’s way up the political latter because of connections. This of course exists in most countries, but it is particularly strong within China. If the PRC wants to let the diversity of officials truly shine, however, then it should adapt a more democratic system that will allow the plebian decide who takes office and thus, will transfer the PRC to a power-sharing nation which will make diversity within PRC politics even a greater strength.

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