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1.30 pm Nov 09, 2012

China braces for leadership change

At a time when global uncertainties have affected even the Chinese economy, at a time when the Chinese Communist Party is faced with the issue of several of its top leaders being involved in corruption, at a time when its maritime border disputes with Japan, South Korea, Vietnam are at an all-time height, how will the leadership change impact China and its southern neighbour India?
7 questions answered
  • Will there be any change in stand for India? Asked by: Jeril Nadar
  • Alka Acharya Highly unlikely - unlike other political systems we have a Communist PArty dominated and controlled government and the framework for relations with INdia has been in pace since the late 1990s. Over the past decade there has been an attempt to forge closer cooperative ties and manage differences through frequent interactions, high-level exchanges, and more recently, the establishment of a hotline at the Joint Secretary level in both countries. The positive trend is most likely to be maintained.
  • The Chinese media's voice in the last couple of months have been pretty conciliatory towards the border disputes with India. Is it because of the heightened tension in the South China Sea viz-a-viz Japan, Korea and Vietnam? Asked by: Parag Jain
  • Alka Acharya It would be misleading to assess perceived changes in Chinese positions as regards the boundary dispute as arising from tensions in the SOuth China Seas. These are two different theaters with very specific and different characteristics as far as the nature of the disputes are concerned. The Sino-Indian boundary negotiations have been since 2003 and 2005 sought to be addressed within the framework of the Special Representatives with a political mandate. While we do not have any information as to where exactly those talks have reached, it is obvious that the complex nature of the claims and the security concerns on both sides as well as historical legacies will make it a somewhat protracted process -- unless we have a major political intervention on both sides - which at the moment seems highly unlikey.
  • What will be the impact on Chinese economy? Asked by: Monty
  • Alka Acharya The economic scenario, which had begun to pose the biggest and most serious challenges for the outgoing leadership is also going to be the first major test for the new leadership. Against the backdrop of the global financial crisis, the new regime will be walking on the razor edge of keeping growth levels from falling too low but ensuring that the environmental and inegalitarian impact does not make the situation unsustainable. The increasing protests against the highhandedness of the local authorities and the serious divides that have become major fault lines in the macro-economic scenario will require a great deal of commitment and care - and of course some very tough decisions in terms of the shifts in strategy followed so far.
  • How should India handle the Brahmaputra River Basin issue with China, with China refusing to allow Indian Hydrologists to visit their dam sites. Asked by: Ganesh
  • Alka Acharya This is one issue which has been generating more heat than light - in the absence of authentic and reliable information, there is a great deal of speculation and conjecture that is neither very useful nor enlightening. Both the countries have been discussing the issue, there is an agreement on sharing of hydrological data, the proposed dams will not impact the quantity of water that flows into India as studies have shown - above all we must not make this a bilateral affair -- there is a third country involved and we must bring the Bangaldesh into this dialogue which is likely to affect them equally - if we are lower riparian vis a vis China, BAngladesh is lower riparian vis a vis us.
  • How will the leadership change impact India? Asked by: Neha
  • Alka Acharya This has already been answered
  • Do you see China's belligerence towards India moderating with the new leadership change ? Asked by: Ganesh
  • Alka Acharya This has been addressed
  • Hu Jintao has ruled out political reforms. But don't you think as China gets more and more integrated with the world economy it is inevitable Asked by: Arindam Bhaduri
  • Alka Acharya Far from ruling out political reforms, Hu has intact acknowledged the inevitable. The focus of the internal debates over the past year has in fact been on the political challenges to the party- particularly in the provinces and local areas and how to respond to it. Already we have seen the impact of the turbulence within in terms of the reforms at the local levels. The question os f course, how far and how fast - HU has certainly ruled out western style democracy - but that is nothing new -- the Chinese are hoping that they would usher in Democracy with Chinese characteristics - its also clear that their specify approach of freeing the economy while controlling the pace of political change, can also be counterproductive. But there is now no question that reforms are inevitable - the challenge will be to stay ahead of the demands that are no secret now.

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Alka Acharya
Director, Institute of Chinese Studies