China's current leader, Hu Jintao, and his heir apparent, Xi Jinping, are pushing the ruling communist party to adopt an internal election system for determining new leadership, according to reports in Reuters.
If accurate, the plan would be the most extensive democratic reform to hit China adopted since the Communist Party took power in 1949.
According to the report, Hu and Xi have proposed that the party's 18th Congress — which will open on Thursday — should offer more candidates for the highest level of government than there are seats and then hold internal elections in order to determine the next government, three sources with ties to the party leadership told Reuters.
The proposal would call for elections in order to determine the makeup of the Politburo, the second highest governing authority in China. The Politburo chooses the Politburo Standing Committee (PSC), the highest decision-making body. Currently, it is made up of nine individuals — but it will be restricted to seven members during the next government's reign.
The Politburo is chosen by the 200-member Central Committee, which is itself chosen by over 2,000 delegates — all of which will gather at the 18th Party Congress this week.
Reuters says that elections under the new proposal, the party will field up to 20 percent more candidates than there are seats in an election to determine the new Politburo. So, "a Politburo with, say, 25 seats would be contested by a maximum of 30 candidates, leaving five of the candidates put forward by party power-brokers at risk of defeat." Reuters did not confirm whether or not the elections would be extended to the PSC.
Because the PSC is chosen by the Politburo, Reuters notes " such a reform could also lead to surprises at the most elite level of the party, which is normally decided by painstaking consensus in a series of back-room negotiations.
The report would seem to confirm rumors that have pegged Xi as a more reformist candidate than the hard-line, communist conservatives which make up a sizeable portion of Chinese leadership. Bloomberg reports today that Xi's leadership has been marked by a balance of capitalist and communist elements.
After speaking with Xi in October, former Secretary of State and Nobel Prize winner Henry Kissinger speculated that "it’s unlikely that in 10 years [ after Xi's government leaves power] the next generation will come into office with exactly the same institutions that exist today. Many economic leaders around the globe are particularly excited about the new government. Former U.S. ambassador to China and Republican presidential candidate John Huntsman told Bloomberg that he thinks Xi has “reform in his DNA.”
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