BEIJING -- Faced with mounting social pressures and concerns about corruption in the ranks of the ruling class, the Chinese Communist Party on Thursday stacked its all-powerful Politburo Standing Committee with men who are nearing retirement.
That means that the majority of seats on the key ruling committee in China went to officials wholl probably step down when the group is up for reshuffling in five years, though it is impossible to know what the implications will be. Most of the new standing committee members are relatively conservative, a sign that the Chinese Communist Party is not ready for political reform.
Im relatively disappointed by this list, said Chen Ziming, a Beijing political analyst who in the 1990s served prison time for his role in the 1989 protests on Tiananmen Square that ended in bloody crackdown. Some people with good reputations . . . did not make it.
Wang Zhengxu, an expert on Chinese politics and the deputy director of the China Policy Institute at Englands University of Nottingham, raised the possibility that the lineup was formed by seniority to silence the rivalry after factions hit a deadlock on building the committee.
But the net effect is that . . . some of the more well-known reformers are excluded, Wang said.
China had been waiting for months for the announcement of the new standing committee, only two of whose members were certain before the committee was announced to the news media Thursday morning: incoming Party Secretary Xi Jinping, 59, and his premier, Li Keqiang, 58.
The remainder of the committee was unknown, however, and people here watched in hopes of determining what sort of policies China might pursue in the coming years.
One thing that became clear with the announcement was that Xi, who will head the committee for the next decade, will have more leeway to push through his agenda than did the previous leader, Hu Jintao. Unlike his own predecessor, who lingered in the job for two years, Hu on Thursday stepped down from his post as the head of the partys Central Military Commission. That post passed to Xi.
In addition, the standing committee was cut in size from nine to seven members and is filled with men aligned with a Xi ally, former Chinese leader Jiang Zemin. That will likely make the groups consensus-driven model easier to manage.
Still, the makeup of the committee gave little promise of serious change. In addition to the composition of the ruling body, the murky process by which it was selected suggested that while the Communist Party frequently speaks about intra-party democracy, it remains mired in politics guided by backroom deals and the politicking of influential elders and factional spats.
In that arena, it appeared that former leader Jiang bested outgoing leader Hu. Of the seven members, Xi and four others are considered members of Jiangs camp. Allies of Hu, including Premier Li Keqiang, hold only two spots.
Its not known in what direction Xi, the 59-year-old son of a prominent party leader, will try to guide the nation. His speech after the committee was unveiled was both surprisingly brief and free of jargon for a top Chinese leader.
Xi spoke three times of the great renewal of the Chinese nation. Time will tell if that term was meant as a sop to nationalists or perhaps a call for some sort of broader transformation.