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March 31, 2023

A crucial week

The week that has just begun is crucial to the historic evolution of the next four years at least, if not a whole decade. Practically, on November 6 and 9, the world’s most powerful states, the U.S.A and China, are deciding their leaders. For the next four or probably eight years, if the winners of the U.S presidential elections are Barack Obama or Mitt Romney, respectively in the case of the US. At least for ten years if Xi Jinping, the serving Vice-President, is appointed as Secretary General of the Chinese Communist Party, set to take over the country presidency in March next year, in China’s case.  It is evident that, in the case of these two systemic powers ranked first (U.S.A) and second (China) from the point of view of their respective economies, and with the U.S being more powerful than the next ten sates together from a military point of view, who leads these states, the policies their leaders conceive and implement both domestically and abroad have a decisive importance in the general global system.

Especially knowing that, after the U.S created at the beginning of the year the much commented upon Asian ‘pivot’, in other words it is moving the centre of weight of its huge economic and military force to Asia, determined exactly by China’s exponential growth in the last two decades, the relations of the two giants will have a crucial importance in the next years. Will these relations develop on the coordinates of partnership or confrontation?Naturally, there are some substantial differences between these two countries regarding the change of their supreme political leadership. In the U.S there is a democratic election, specific for the liberal system, the president being elected in a long elaborated process of selection, designed to give the winner the highest electoral legitimacy. China, on the other hand, has a uni-party political system and the selection of the new generation of leaders takes placed differently to the one in the U.S, involving a deaf , opaque and merciless fight behind the political stage among the various groups and centres of interest, at the top of the leading political elite. While legitimated by a social contract with the people, ensuring a miraculous economic growth in the last decades, this elite uses an authoritarianism that is directly linked to the domestic political stability in China. One of the most often heard questions in the recent analyses on the future of China is the way in which its political system will suffer transformation while preventing instability at the society level. In the U.S.A, the democrat President in office, Obama, fights the republican challenger Romney in the election today, both being credited by opinion polls with almost equal chance of success. The major question is how the political strategy of the most powerful state on the planet will change relative to who the winner will be. Most political observers who have tried to give an answer to the question simply had to come to the conclusion that the big US strategy will essentially not change no matter who wins this poll. Both locally and abroad, the U.S.A will have to conduct policies to support the overcoming of the current economic and financial impasse that has fed an entire literature of declinism and loss of systemic primacy. Visionary policies are needed domestically to be able to quickly absorb a high unemployment that causes the American economy to struggle with the recession settled in when the financial crisis furiously burst out in 2008 and also the huge public debt running dangerously close to the level prior to WWII. On the other hand, at an international level, the US will have to provide the global leadership recently distinctively re-asserted by both presidential candidates, with a Europe captured by an apparently interminable financial crisis, with a fluid Middle East, presenting several possibilities of development, including a regional war and with the ‘Arab spring’ sending out signals of a ‘frost’ of democratic developments, with Asia where China’s growth has caused neighbours to consider measures for coagulation of a possible mutual support in coping with its aggressiveness The package of foreign policy files waiting for the new administration in Washington also includes those referring to relations with Russia, Africa, fight against global terror, climate change management so on and so forth. As far as China is concerned, we already know who the next leader of this giant country will be. Xi Jinpin, the son of a general from the revolutionary elite that founded the communist state, currently Vice President, will be installed at the top of the communist party, then as president of the country and after one or two more years, as head of the influential Military Committee, a body of seven members which is practically the supreme leadership entity. This is the power transfer, a process painstakingly organised in the 1990s, upon the death of the father of the extraordinary development of China, Deng Xiaoping, to prevent the country from falling into chaos and secure the needed political stability. This is the transfer to the forth generation of leaders. The Xi generation of leaders replaces the generation of Hu Jintao, the current president who, within this process of power transfer, took over the leadership in 2002, together with PM in office Wen, from the generation of Jiang Zemin. In keeping with the transfer procedure that is accurately followed each time, the previous president keeps his position as head of the Military Committee for another year or two, therefore continuing to exercise a major political influence and ensuring continuity.The power transfer to the forth generation of leaders in Beijing has not lacked tensed episodes that became public and which showed just how tough the struggle for power inside the ‘forbidden city’ actually is. This year started with the unseating of a high-ranking character on the Political Bureau of the communist party, Bo Xilai, disposed of his seat amidst corruption allegations, his wife being arrested, convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment on a murder count. Observers have read into the episode some sort of victory of the reformist faction over the conservative opposition that toughly resists the reformation of the political system. Recently we have had the disclosure by the ‘The New York Times’ of the fabulous wealth of sitting Prime-Minister Wen, probably an unsuccessful attempt to cause the supreme leadership transfer process to derail. It is but obvious that the above mentioned episodes reveal a power struggle that is actually very tightly related to China’s future path. Will the country embark on a journey to transforming its political system into a multi-party one, or will it continue as the country where the communist party has supremacy? It is the fundamental question today about the transfer of power in Beijing this week, because the road China will commit to will bear huge importance on the world evolution on a medium and long term. Obama or Romney, in the US, and the way Xi Jinpin will take, in China’s case, are this week’s hot questions.

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