China’s Fifth Generation Leadership continues to draw world attention. Nepal being a close and friendly neighbor of China, with 1,440-km long common border, will be closely assessing the composition and role of this Fifth Generation Leadership and its impact on Nepal-China relations. For Nepal, strengthening its relations with China is pivotal. Inseparable relation between the two countries has been acknowledged by both sides since time immemorial. With the establishment of diplomatic ties in 1955, Nepal and China have been steadily moving closer. Chinese leaders from all generations of modern China, from Mao’s first to Deng’s second, Jiang’s third, Hu’s fourth and the fifth led by Xi Jinping, are well aware of Nepal. Nepal, notably, has had the privilege of receiving China’s paramount leader Deng Xiaoping.
The election of Fifth Generation leaders is indeed a great event for China and the rest of the world as such change, though it is a normal practice, comes only once in 10 years. The 18th Communist Party of China National Congress (Nov 8-14) that elected members of CPC Political Bureau and its seven-member Standing Committee, should be taken in the same light.
The Congress elected the incumbent Vice President and Vice Chairman of the Military Commission, Xi Jinping, General Secretary of the CPC. Xi Jinping’s nomination as Chairman of CPC Central Military Commission has already made him the most powerful leader in China. In this context, three generations of Chinese leadership, Jiang Zemin, Hu Jintao and Xi Jinping, all adherents of Deng Xiaoping, have demonstrated unique solidarity.
The process of power transition is slated for completion in March 2013 when party General Secretary Xi will replace President Hu Jintao whose tenure has been successful from many angles. Hu’s tenure, though not without its glitches, is notable for numerous achievements. China has become the second largest economy in the world; its GDP has almost quadrupled. During his tenure, China which organized the fabulous Beijing Olympics, staged Space Walk, held Shanghai World Expo 2010, withstood the test of SARS epidemic, braved a massive earthquake and built many new high speed railways, in the process achieving fastest poverty alleviation in the recorded history of mankind.
Nevertheless, the CPC leadership is now convinced that its previous model of development needs to be changed and the economic and political reforms should go side by side. The Fifth Generation of Chinese Leadership will exercise power on more popular base through the People’s Congress. For this, the CPC has introduced major changes to its constitution, although it has preserved core theories and values. The CPC had earlier qualified that “reform in every realm must be comprehensively pushed forward with more resolution and encouragement.”
Xi Jinping thus has already stepped up work in areas that need to be cleaned up. Hu, on the issue of corruption, had said, “If we fail to handle this issue well, it could prove fatal to the party, and even cause the collapse of the party and the fall of the state”. This message hit hard. Now with Xi at the helm of CPC, axes have started to fall on some of the top brass.
After Deng Xiaoping heralded a new era in China by opening this great nation to the outside world and introducing economic reforms in 1978, China has been steadily rising in a peaceful way. The report of the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) states: “China will overtake the United States by 2016 to become the world’s largest economy” and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) projects that China’s economy will be bigger than that of United States in terms of Purchasing Power Parity (PPP), also by 2016. Others have different projections. It will be apt to note that “China produced a greater share of total world GDP than any western society in eighteen of the last twenty centuries. As late as 1820, it produced 30 percent of the world GDP—an amount exceeding the GDP of Western Europe, Eastern Europe, and the United States combined” (Angus Maddison, The World Economy: A Millennial Perspective).
With the change of its growth model, China’s economy is expected to perform even better. However, today’s China has scores of challenges, both from within and outside. In retrospect, Chinese leaders have demonstrated their ability and skill to overcome even the worst crises. Considering this, China’s continuous rise is beyond doubt.
In the latest scenario, China and the US appear to be trying to narrow down their differences. The visit (Dec 11, 2012) of Lael Brainard, the US Under Secretary of the Treasury for International Affairs, to Beijing and her meeting with one of the powerful Chinese leaders, Vice-Premier Wang Qishan, who has been recently elected Standing Committee member of CPC Political Bureau by the 18th CPC National Congress, may be the beginning of US diplomatic maneuver to lay the groundwork for better relationship between the Obama Administration and the Fifth Generation of Chinese Leadership. US President Obama’s receiving of Chinese Vice-Premier Wang Qishan in the White House less than two weeks after Brainard’s visit to Beijing is a clear indication of this warming trajectory in Sino-US relations.
China and the US are great powers. Their responsibility to play a key role in shaping the course of 21st century together with Russia, Europe and other powers, is crucial. Against this backdrop, Henry Kissinger, the former US Secretary of State, suggests both US and China work together to “promote cooperative partnership based on peaceful coexistence and win-win cooperation.” Former German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt, giving a nod to Chinese foreign policy, says, “If you look at Chinese history, it has never colonized other countries and there is no tradition in China’s foreign policy of taking other people’s territory and I do not believe they will go away from the tradition” (“Hamburg Summit: China meets Europe,” November 29, 2012). Will their deliberations have a meaningful impact on both Washington and Beijing? It should.
While Nepal-China relations are being strengthened, China has repeatedly pledged support to Nepal’s effort to protect its sovereignty, independence, territorial integrity and development, and has appreciated Nepal’s “One-China Policy”. China has also been continually calling on Nepal to curb anti-Chinese activities from its soil, for such activities threaten China’s national security. Hu, in his report to 18th CPC Congress, states, “We are firm in our resolve to uphold China’s sovereignty, security, and development interests, and will never yield to outside pressure.”
He doesn’t name any particular country, but what does the message mean to us? To address China’s core concerns, as reflected in Hu’s report, has become more imperative for Nepal now than ever before. This is the only way we can make our bilateral relationship congruous and complementary, and maintain cordial working relationship with the Fifth Generation of Chinese Leadership. The time honored Chinese dictum that frontier states such as Nepal should be “maintained in most perfect tranquility” is bang on, but Nepal is currently passing through one of the worst stages in its 2,500 years old history and struggling for its bare survival. This state is adverse to tranquility. The new Chinese leaders must be aware of it.
The author is chairman of China Study Center