Xi Jinping will certainly have his work cut out. The man expected to take over as China's new leader will have to contend with a cooling economy, corrupt leaders, increasing social inequality and simmering conflicts with neighboring countries. How will Xi hang on to China’s place among the world’s top powers? Will he chose to go down the path to reform or will he rule with an iron fist?
Every ten years, China’s Communist Party gets a change at the top. The new candidates, who come from the inner circle of the ruling regime, are supposed to inject fresh impetus into the party but also ensure continuity. This year, the ruling party has been beset by a series of murder, sex and corruption scandals, and new cases of senior party figures trying to line their pockets continue to come to light. Meanwhile, the Chinese people are becoming sick and tired of their political elites, who they say never practice what they preach. The immense wealth that China has generated in recent years has been funnelled into the pockets of a small select group, which enjoys close ties to the ruling regime. The gap between rich and poor continues to widen and any opposing voices are firmly muzzled.
As China’s prosperity grows, so too do wages. That has forced many manufacturers to look elsewhere for cheap labour and many have set up shop in Vietnam or Cambodia. A report from the World Bank and the Chinese government says that things have to change in China. The country’s state capitalist economy has run out of steam and its runaway economic success of recent years looks in danger. More independent privately owned companies could give the economy a welcome shot in the arm, but the ruling Communist Party is fearful of losing its grip on power.
Up to now, China’s expansion has been purely of an economic nature. Recently, however, it has been flexing its military muscles, such as in the simmering dispute over the Senkaku islands, known as Diaoyu in China. In response to China’s show of force, the United States has increased its military presence in the Pacific and challenged China’s claim to hegemony there. Will China’s new leadership be able to solve its internal and external problems? Will Xi Jinping turn out to be a reformer or will he follow the lead of his predecessors? And is there a danger that China's urge to expand could unleash a military conflict?
Tell us what you think: China's New Leaders - Communism, Capitalism and Corruption
Lea Zhou – A Chinese journalist, Zhou has been living in Germany since 1988. In China, she studied German and economics. She has reported from Berlin for the "Voice of America" and is editor in chief of the Chinese-language weekly newspaper "The Epoch Times Europe".
Gudrun Wacker – is senior fellow at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs. Her special areas of interest are Chinese foreign and security policy and domestic developments. She is currently engaged in research into China's international relations and in particular the country's relationship with the EU. The role of China in the Pacific region and the problems of sustainable development are also within her field of research.
Sven Hansen – studied politics at university before becoming a journalist. His interest in Asian affairs began when he was a freelancer working in Hong Kong as well as other centres. In 1997, he joined the Berlin daily the "TAZ", as editor of the Asian desk. He still often travels to the region.