The other election


The Chinese Communist Party is to meet Nov. 8, two days after America’s election, to choose that country’s leadership for the next 10 years. Unlike the too-close-to-call U.S. presidential vote, the outcome of the process in China is virtually predetermined.

The power players to be taken into account include representatives of the Communist Party, the military, big business, and China’s regions. Divisions inside China include an urban-rural split, north-south competition, differences of interest between coastal China and the interior, and political power centered on particular individuals.

A good example of the latter is the controversy about the fate of Bo Xilai, a major political personality in China. His wife was found guilty of murdering a British businessman; his son was reported to have a fondness for luxury cars while a student at Harvard University.

The dangerous words “reform” and “corruption” are under discussion as the party congress approaches. There even has been talk about China moving toward a Singapore model of “flexible authoritarianism.” The designated successor to President Hu Jintao, Xi Jinping, is said to be looking at reform of government representation.

The state of the Chinese economy remains the basic source of legitimacy for continued Communist rule. The government recently announced growth in China’s gross domestic product of 7.4 percent for the third quarter of 2012, the lowest quarterly increase in three years.

Despite stern threats by the U.S. presidential candidates of action against China for currency manipulation, China’s currency, the renmimbi, has gained 8.5 percent during President Obama’s term. Given the interdependence of the two economies, any post-election actions against China could have unanticipated negative effects on the American economy as well.

This situation will need to be revisited after both countries go through their transitions and a new status quo exists.