China’s Process for Picking Leaders is Ridiculous

Lest you think America’s electoral process is too complicated, inefficient, or silly, allow me to dazzle you with China’s process for selecting leadership. From CNN:

More than 2,200 delegates from across China are in attendance at the congress this week. The congress itself meets every five years. It is designed to assess the country’s progress, and set new directions. Every 10 years it selects the new leadership.

The delegates will pick the roughly 200 members of the party’s Central Committee, about three-quarters of whom are expected to be replaced, mostly because of their age.

The Central Committee chooses the members of the Politburo, from which the powerful Politburo Standing Committee is selected. The handful of leaders who make up the Standing Committee are China’s top decision makers.

None of these people are elected or accountable to society in any way. They are nameless bureaucrats of the communist system; cogs in the machine.

There will be no frenzy of exit polls and ballot counting. The major outcomes of the ruling Communist Party’s 18th National Congress, as the event is known, have been determined in advance after months of secretive maneuvering and deal-making among senior party figures.

The method may be arcane, but the result matters for China’s 1.3 billion citizens and for countries around the globe like the United States that are trying to decipher what the Asian giant’s growing international clout means for them.

The only problem is, nobody’s sure exactly what China’s new top brass will do once they have assumed power.

During the race for the White House in the United States, President Barack Obama and Gov. Mitt Romney eagerly brandished their credentials for getting tough on China, with Obama citing trade suits he’d filed and Romney promising to label Beijing a currency manipulator.

China’s prospective leaders, however, are a great deal more circumspect about their policies — both domestic and international — often speaking in broad, ambiguous terms.

“Chinese leaders don’t rise to the top telegraphing what changes they’ll do,” said Bruce J. Dickson, a political science professor at George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs. “They rise to the top showing how loyal they are to the incumbent. What they’ll do when they rise to the top — that’s the big question.”

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