Report of Seminar held at IPCS on 3 November 2010
Maj. Gen. Dipankar Banerjee, Director, Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies
Prof. Cheng Li, Director Research and Senior Fellow, John L. Thornton China Center, Brookings Institution
Dr. Michael O’Hanlon, Senior Fellow, Brookings Institution
Cheng Li – Chinese Leadership: Transition 2012
There are four simultaneous changes occurring in the Chinese polity which help in predicting the future course of the Chinese leadership: (a) One party, two coalitions, (b) New generation, new identities, (c) Strong factions, weak leaders, (d) Political pluralism, and policy deadlock. Besides these changes, the Chinese political system is also marked by several continuities such as there being no signs of a multi-party system evolving, lack of checks and balances among the three branches, the party’s strict control over the army and media, as well as the legal and judiciary system.
The Chinese party and government have recently witnessed a simultaneous presence of two broad socio-political and geographical constituencies which are equally powerful. Both factions are complimentary to each other in terms of leadership skills and expertise. While they are willing to cooperate on certain issues, they have differing policy initiatives and priorities and are fiercely competitive on other grounds.
These two camps can be differentiated as: the ‘populist coalition’ and the ‘elitist coalition’.’ While the former is constituted of mostly tuanpai or former Chinese Communist Youth League officials who have a rural base and have emerged from the leadership of interior provinces, the latter is an elitist coalition of princelings or taizi, the children of former high Communist Party (CPC) officials and of business-friendly leaders from Shanghai and its nearby regions commonly called the “Shanghai Gang.”
The majority in the new State Council represented by the fifth generation leaders is constituted by the populist council; however, the elitist camp holds most of the significant portfolios such as of economic administration, foreign trade, and finance. There is also a trend of declining recruitment of technocrats with most members joining proficient in the social sciences and law. Foreign-educated returnees are also being given top priority in Chinese administration.
The changes and continuities lend China a paradoxical situation of hope and fear. Almost two-thirds of the top party and government positions will be replaced mainly due to their retirement age, at the 2012 Party Congress. However, many of these leaders might still want to run the country from behind the scenes. Meanwhile, the fact that young leaders are more capable and ambitious might lead to a power struggle and thus, China currently, exudes a sense of both confidence and constraints. It might well be that the sixth-generation leaders is the last generation of CPC’s leadership as the creation of the ‘team of rivals’ within the Chinese party and government as has been the case in recent years. Collective leadership is also a stumbling block in projecting a unified image as it leads to delays in decision-making because of internal differences.
There is a rising consciousness amongst the Chinese intelligentsia about the constraints that US would exercise on China’s rise and hence the need for further militarization and aggressive posturing. This is exhibited in such recent writings as The China Dream written by a senior military official Liu Mingfu. It reflects a significant shift and a departure from the earlier ideological standpoints such as for instance Mao’s declaration for China ‘never to be a superpower,’ or Deng Xiaoping’s injunction ‘to never be a leader.’
On the economic front, top Chinese banks have emerged as global leaders in terms of market capitalization. While there were doubts raised by the international community about the credibility and viability of these banks, not only have they survived but also become some of the most powerful banks in the international arena. Many Chinese companies are now listed in the Fortune 500 and there has been a rapid growth of Chinese enterprises which is generating high level of confidence in the Chinese economy. The increasing aggressiveness in China’s international political behaviour is an upshot of this confidence felt especially in the aftermath of the US financial downturn.
However, there are several problems associated with such economic growth. The economic boom has not translated into equal opportunities for growth. Economic disparities, unemployment, shortage of natural resources, environmental degradation, lack of a social safety net and several other issues are generating resentment amongst the growing middle class. These can lead to CPC’s failure in the long term.
In conclusion, any enquiry into the Chinese political apparatus should take into account the domestic politics of China and global players should cultivate friendships in both the camps of the bifurcated political structure within the CPC. Additionally, one should avoid looking at leaders in terms of their political alliance as hard-liners or otherwise, in order to be able to fathom the real intentions of the Chinese leadership.
• A multi-party system cannot exist in China given the extent of the CPC’s control. Eventually however, the two factions will split the CPC as the schism becomes more transparent. And even though it might be misleading to suggest the dichotomy as a way of detailed analysis, it is still a helpful tool in terms of macro-analysis. Hu Jintao will not be able to retain power in the Central Military Commission indefinitely because of recent precedents as well as new regulations such as those related to age limits. Meanwhile, the pace of economic development is highly incongruent with political transformation; this will augur political change due to loss of legitimacy of the CPC.
• The state has to take cognizance of the sensitivities of the public. This is one reason why current Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi who has frequently endorsed pro-US policies has had to recently reverse his stance.
• The Chinese leadership does not really place India or the boundary dispute as very important priorities. The US however, tends to occupy an overbearing presence in the Chinese policy framework since Taiwan is a major concern for China’s national integration project.
• Besides, the US, China should also be sending students in large numbers to countries like Indonesia and India.
• The relationship between the military and the civil leadership continues to lack trust and mutual distrust is likely to continue in future, primarily because the military is becoming more and more technocratic while the civil leadership is increasingly less technocratic and does not have the same stature as former leaders like Mao Zedong or Deng Xiaoping.
• Resilience of the CPC is questionable from the evidence available at hand. The nature of the political system is inherently flawed. Two scenarios emerge from the existing situation: real democracy or chaotic continuity, both of which have their own pros and cons for the Chinese people.
Report by Bhavna Singh, Research Officer, IPCS
Michael O’Hanlon – Counter-Insurgency in Afghanistan: Scenarios for Termination
A lot has been said about the importance of the conflict in Afghanistan. US President Barack Obama has called it a “war of necessity” and held it as a vital option for national security in the aftermath of 9/11 terror attacks. According to a report of the Congressional Research Service (CRS), the average monthly Department of Defense (DOD) spending in Afghanistan grew from US$3.5 billion to US$5.7 billion in June 2010 and troop deployment rose to 98,000 with additional deployments to Afghanistan in September 2010. On the other hand, casualties suffered by the US Army are continuously on the rise. What then are the assets and liabilities of US efforts in Afghanistan and motivations behind the massive troop buildup and increase in defence spending for Operation Enduring Freedom?
The US is hoping to achieve a stable government controlled by the people of Afghanistan which works on democratic principles and is hopeful about the economic growth of Afghanistan which is quite visible. The ongoing conflict and the NATO troop buildup in Afghanistan does not relate to the US’ intentions of having a permanent military base in Afghanistan. The US is not looking for a military base in Afghanistan to contain the major powers like China. Its motivation lies in total annihilation of the terrorist sanctuaries in the region; the major operational goals in Afghanistan are to check the insurgency and to bring stability in Afghanistan. While, the violence in Afghanistan shows no signs of abating, after the additional deployment of troops the number of IED attacks has gone down and there are more encounters with the Taliban. The current strategy of Obama’s administration is to build up favourable conditions for a possible exit plan of American troops by July 2011. There are however, concerns related to the administration’s decision in case there is not enough progress in terms of stabilization in Afghanistan by July 2011.
As far as US achievements in Afghanistan are concerned, the economy of Afghanistan is in better shape; an average Afghan citizen has a better standard of living then before. Second, the opinion polls have suggested that there is a growing resentment among people against the Taliban and people are supporting American presence in the region. Further, considerable progress has been made in establishing the Afghan Army through partnership with NATO/ISAF forces under the command of Gen. Stanley McChrystal and now Gen. David Petraeus. The operational capabilities of the Afghan Army have grown remarkably. As far as the leadership in Afghanistan is concerned the people are quite apprehensive about the growing corruption in Afghan administration but there are able ministers in the administration too. The governors in the provinces are better than before and the improvement in the governance and administration is well noted. Opinion polls show that President Hamid Karzai is not so popular among the citizens but still considered a better option and regarded as the ‘Father of Modern Afghanistan.’
The US liabilities in Afghanistan range from the issues of terrorist sanctuaries in Pakistan and Afghanistan and the level of corruption in the Afghan administration. Terrorist sanctuaries are still nurtured in Pakistan and the US faces the operational hazard of curbing insurgency supported from a foreign sanctuary. The US administration is also exercising a caution on the Haqqani network closely allied with the Afghan Taliban. The corruption especially in Karzai’s inner circle is also a major cause for worry. The Kabul Bank case which involved President Karzai’s relatives and allies is notorious in this regard. But the situation has been improving with the appointment of the new Interior Minister Bismillah Khan Mohammadi. Initially, the US did not have any anti-corruption plans but Gen. Petraeus has now appointed a high profile officer Brig. Gen. HR McMaster to lead anti-corruption efforts in Afghanistan.
There is also a need for modification of counterinsurgency strategy for NATO/ISAF forces which is based on Obama’s current strategy on Afghanistan or Plan-A as security remains poor in the southern parts of the country and the corruption of the Karzai regime is alienating Afghan citizens. Foreign policy experts are now emphasizing on Plan-B which is based on the reduction of the US forces and targeted counter-insurgency operations. It will provide a chance for overall operational development of Afghan forces paving the way for their comprehensive control and gradual withdrawal of US forces.
• There must be a regional solution to the Afghan problem as this would be a long term solution. To achieve the aims of peace and stability in Afghanistan, the US has to factor in Iran and India – Iran due to its cultural connections and India, because of its greater experience in civilian aid and counter-insurgency operations.
• Indian military participation is possible under United Nations flag with a brigade group for facilitating peace in the area.
• As an Indian presence can create a problem in the region due to prevailing tensions with Pakistan, a South Asian multilateral arrangement can be made with the active participation of Iran. Multilateral endeavour through SAARC is one of the options to end the conflict as Afghanistan is now a member state.
• On the question of the hurdles posed by the insurgents groups in Pakistan and Afghanistan, the groups operating in Pakistan are posing problems in the stabilization process. NATO/ISAF forces can contest them in Afghanistan but it is difficult to deal with them in Pakistan.
Report prepared by Jasbir Rakhra, Research Officer, IPCS