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China’s Foreign Policy and the Leadership Transition: Prospects for Change under the ‘Fifth Generation’

  • Avery Goldstein
Chapter
Part of the Asan-Palgrave Macmillan Series book series (APMS)

Abstract

At the Eighteenth Congress of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) early in the fall of 2012, China will formally begin the last phase of the transition to a new cohort of party leaders, what by the now conventional reckoning is referred to as the “fifth generation”.’ The party congress will be the first step in inaugurating these successors, with those heading the government to be announced at the subsequent National People’s Congress in early 2013, and the transfer of civilian leadership of the military (Chairman of the Central Military Commission) possibly taking another year or more. But in China’s political system the selection of a new CCP politburo standing committee, especially its leading figure, the party’s general secretary, is the key step in the succession process. Based on the current posts he holds and the role he has recently played in ceremonial activities at home and abroad, the consensus is that Xi Jinping will be the man to head this next generation of political leaders in China. What are the implications of this leadership transition for China’s foreign policy going forward? Do the personal backgrounds or professional career trajectories of the individuals in this cohort suggest they will have a distinctive set of foreign policy views? If so, are their views likely to change China’s foreign policy-making process or the policies it produces?

Keywords

Foreign Policy Chinese Communist Party Foreign Policy Issue Peaceful Rise Central Military Commission 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 1.
    See, for example, Li Cheng, “China’s Leadership, Fifth Generation,” December 2007, http://www.brookings.edu/articles/2007/12_china_li.aspx; Li Cheng, “China’s Fifth Generation: Is Diversity a Source of Strength or Weakness,” Asia Policy 6 (July 2008): 53–93; Alice L. Miller, “The 18th Central Committee Politburo: A Quixotic, Foolhardy, Rashly Speculative, but Nonetheless Ruthlessly Reasoned Projection,” China Leadership Monitor 33 (June 28, 2010); Zhang Xiaoming, “The Leadership of the PLAAF after 2012,” China Brief 11, no. 10 (June 3, 2011).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 4.
    Linda Jakobson and Dean Knox, New Foreign Policy Actors in China, SIPRI Policy Paper No. 26, September 2010.Google Scholar
  3. 8.
    Such views have colored the language used in some Chinese criticisms of the Obama administration’s re-emphasis on East Asia after 2009 and then the declaration of an American strategic “pivot” to the region as the US military focus on military action in Iraq and Afghanistan was winding down. For an analysis of China’s evolving discourse about East Asian regionalism, see Gilbert Rozman, “East Asian Regionalism and Sinocentrism,” Japanese Journal of Political Science 13, no. 1 (2012): 143–153.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 9.
    On the potential dangers this may pose, see Jack L. Snyder, Myths of Empire: Domestic Politics and International Ambition (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1991);Google Scholar
  5. Edward D. Mansfield and Jack Snyder, “Democratization and the Danger of War,” International Security 20, no. 1 (Summer 1995): 5–38;CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. and Edward D. Mansfield and Jack L. Snyder, Electing to Fight: Why Emerging Democracies Go to War (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2005).Google Scholar
  7. 12.
    See Avery Goldstein, Rising to the Challenge: China’s Grand Strategy and International Security (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2005).Google Scholar
  8. 14.
    See Bonnie S. Glaser and Lyle Morris, “Chinese Perceptions of US Decline and Power,” China Brief 9, no. 14 (July 9, 2009): 1–6; Bonnie S. Glaser and Benjamin Dooley, “China’s 11th Ambassadorial Conference Signals Continuity and Change in Foreign Policy,” China Brief 9, no. 22 (November 4, 2009): 1–7;Google Scholar
  9. Michael D. Swaine, “Perceptions of an Assertive China,” China Leadership Monitor 32 (May 11, 2010): 1–19;Google Scholar
  10. Michael D. Swaine, “China’s Assertive Behavior—Part One: On ‘Core Interests,’” China Leadership Monitor 34 (2011): 1–25.Google Scholar
  11. 15.
    M. Taylor Fravel, Strong Borders, Secure Nation: Cooperation and Conflict in China’s Territorial Disputes (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2008).Google Scholar
  12. 16.
    For more detailed discussion of issues mentioned here, see Michael D. Swaine, Tuosheng Zhang, and Danielle F. S. Cohen, Managing Sino-American Crises: Case Studies and Analysis (Washington, D.C.: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 2006);Google Scholar
  13. Zhang Tuosheng, “Zhongguo guoji junshi anquan weiji xingwei yanjiu,” Shijie jingji yu zhengzhi 4 (2011): 103–21.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Asan Institute for Policy Studies 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Avery Goldstein

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