Thursday, September 02, 2004

Man is a Political Animal

As this NYT story on the emerging struggle and policy divisions between Hu Jintao and Jiang Zemin's factions illustrates, not even a one-party totalitarian state can succeed in abolishing politics.

Purported differences between the men are often exaggerated in China's rumor-filled political discourse. But people in the government and party hierarchy, including a few who say they were skeptical about the possibility of a power struggle until recent months, say they see signs that the two leaders have associated themselves with opposing schools of thought.

Broadly speaking, Mr. Hu is seen as embracing the idea that China needs to focus more on populist social problems, like corruption, health care, income inequality and environmental pollution, while Mr. Jiang has often spoken about the importance of maintaining a high rate of economic growth as the first priority.

Mr. Jiang is viewed as more supportive of China's private sector and of delegating power to the provinces to control their economies. Mr. Hu and Prime Minister Wen Jiabao have been using central government controls to reduce wasteful state spending, curtail lending to cool the overheated economy, and support the largest state-owed conglomerates.

Several people also said that Mr. Hu and Mr. Jiang have also begun to diverge subtly on foreign policy, with Mr. Hu working to forge closer ties to European nations, especially France and Germany, and Mr. Jiang emphasizing the relatively cordial relationship he built with the United States in the late 1990's.
It's funny how the left-right splits in domestic policy are also echoed in the differences in preferred foreign friendships, isn't it? This consistency would argue against the idea that the differences between the two men are entirely a matter of unprincipled power-grabbing; China's leadership seems genuinely split along ideological lines.