chapter  13
Political Leadership in China in the Twenty-First Century
ByWeixing Chen
Pages 10

Chinese politics has always been and continues to be a politics of change and transformation. Change and transformation are often associated with leadership successions. China’s economic reform started with deng Xiaoping’s assuming power as the second generation of Chinese leadership after the death of Mao Zedong in 1976. Aiming at transforming China’s planned economy into a marketoriented economy through depoliticising the Chinese polity and economy, deng’s reform started the process of liberalisation in China. If the legitimacy of the Chinese Communist Party used to be based on Communist ideology and the charisma of revolutionaries like Mao and deng, the era of Communist ideology and charismatic leaders came to an end with the death of deng. Chinese leaders after deng are technocrats rather than revolutionaries. For technocrats, performance has become the new criterion of legitimacy. Economic growth and institution-building have served to compromise economic liberalism and political authoritarianism for Jiang Zemin, the third generation of Chinese leadership, and Hu Jintao, the fourth generation of Chinese leadership, but the contradiction from the combination of one-party state socialism with competitive capitalism is far from being resolved. How to reconcile the elements of the contradiction by managing to maintain sustained economic growth and meet the demands of people and society remains the ultimate challenge for the fourth generation of Chinese leadership and the fifth generation of Chinese leadership in 2012-17. At stake are the survival, power and leadership of the CCP on the one hand, and the prosperity and stability of China on the other.