I have been asking people this question and a lot of people do not know the answer. We will return to that shortly.
The world watched with rapped attention a fortnight ago as Barrack Obama won a historical second term in the White House. The global news schedules were drowning in coverage of the campaign and the Election Day itself. I personally stayed up until 5:30 in the morning to see the results. It was an event of global significance, a race the outcome of which would affect the lives of billions if not everyone on the planet. However while this was going on, the leadership of another country was also being decided, an event that could perhaps be equally as important.
The Chinese Communist party (the world’s largest political organisation, with more members than there are people in the United Kingdom) recently changed the membership of its politburo standing committee, the countries highest decision making body. Once every 10 years at the Chinese Communist party conference, China’s leadership steps down and new leaders are appointed. These leaders come from the 25 member politburo and its higher body, the seven person standing committee. The General Secretary of the Communist Party of China as well as other leadership figures are chosen from the standing committee. All of this is conducted in secret, with the conference ending with the new leadership being shown to the party.
The makeup of the standing committee and China’s new leadership are decisions with the same global signification as the race for the White House. China is the world’s second largest economy and it is predicted that during the new leadership’s term of office China will become the world’s largest economy. China also holds the majority of the world's debt as well as being a key export market for the growth starved west and a major financial centre. They have the world’s largest army, an expanding space program and now aircraft carriers and stealth fighters. In less than a decade the members of standing committee may become the most powerful people in the world. My question concerning all this is, why has there been a lot less media coverage of the events leading up the anointment of the new Chinese leadership?
There has been coverage, with articles on BBC website and in other new sources but I have not seen one piece on the Chinese Communist party conference grace the front page of a British national newspaper or appear as the top story on a news broadcast, as the American election did. The change of power in China is just as important as the change of power in America, perhaps more important as the new leader has a much greater ability to effect change in his country than Barrack Obama does in America. This is where I answer the above question, Xi Jinping is the new General Sectary of the Chinese Communist Party and is very likely to be the next president of China. So why is there less coverage of the method by which he came to power? Why are we not globally weighing up the pros and cones of perspective Chinese leaders, examining Xi Jinping's qualities as a leader and considering what his vision of China might look like?
The main reason is that people in the west simply are not interested, which is not only a shame but a dangerous way of thinking. We prefer to focus on our own politics, believing them to be most important events in the world, whilst dismissing events elsewhere as less than important. It is foolish to ignore the changes that are happening in China. By all accounts Xi Jinping’s forthcoming appointment to the presidency is a victory for China’s more conservative factions. He has close ties to the military and is the son of a past powerful figure and party elder. He is certainly not a reformer, but he does have a more global prospective than previous leaders. We should be concerned about our future and the power that China will hold over it, and we should be more concerned about the people directing this power and the means by which they are appointed.
Another reason why western media is not as interested in the change in Chinese leadership is that the key events happen in secret. The standing committee and a shadowy group of party elders decide in secret on the next generation of leaders and who will be appointed to the most senior positions. This process does not lend itself to the extensive coverage, which news sources use to attract large amounts of views and readers. The results are also a forgone conclusion. It had been known for a while that Xi Jinping would be the next General Secretary and that Li Keqiang would be his deputy. It is almost certain they will be given the most senior positions in the Chinese government, the presidency and premiership. Xi Jinping, Li Keqiang and others had been elevated to positions of power by outgoing president Hu Jintao, a man who favored loyalty above all else.
Chinese leadership elections are not as exciting as their American counter part, they lack scandal, uncertain results and a dramatic conclusions. News vendors may not be that interested but that does not mean the events are not globally significant. We may not be that cornered about the changes in Chinese leadership but as a nation we should be.
Xi Jinping will lead China for ten years during which China and the whole world will face serious challenges in terms of the economy and the environment China also faces many internal challenges, in rooting out corruption finding its place among the other global powers, maintaining its growth rate and balancing political freedoms with the Communist state. Xi Jinping is not a man much is known about in the west but his character may come to define the next decade of global events.
In the west we need to stop thinking of ourselves as the main stage or the only stage as we increasingly become a side show. We need to pay more attention to events in China and Chinese politics as our economic recovery will depend upon it. Xi Jinping and the other new members of standing committee step into the spot light as Obama secures himself a second term in power but Xi Jinping will be leading China long after Obama has left the White House. Us in the west should pay as much attention to events in China as we do to America as they profoundly effect our world. Xi Jinping should be a name that is on everyone's in the west's minds.