Analysis by Christopher Yip
Representatives from across China met this week to elect seven new Communist Party members to the top brass, including the party president and premier.
Then again, “elect” might not be the right word.
The 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China included over 2,000 representatives from all over the country. Yet who ends up in those top positions is governed by constitution. What does that mean?
“China’s voting process is decided before the election. Everybody knows who will be the next president,” said Xie Su Yun, a graduate student from China now studying in Regina. At 24 years old, he is six years over the voting age in China. But while he was still living in Chengdu, the capital of the Sichuan province, he saw no reason to vote.
“Everybody knows the election process, how fake it is,” he said.
It’s true that there were no surprises when Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang were elected for president and premier of the People’s Republic of China. They were both acknowledged as shoo-ins for the roles months, even years, ago – and have been groomed to fit them for longer, in a process largely determined by high-ranking party officials.
But Yuchao Zhu, a professor specializing in China-Canada relations at the University of Regina, points out an undercurrent of change in Chinese politics.
“There are some people within the government elite who promote political change, reform,” said Zhu. “The government is increasingly aware of those diversities in society (and) not being able to continue the total control of society. Although it’s still repressed, it’s changing.”
The longer the wait, Zhu said, the higher the probability that public discontent will have to be dealt with by the government.
In the meantime, how will this new change in leadership affect China’s relations with Canada? Globe and Mail reporter Ann Mehler Paperny pointed to the current cozy relationship between China and Canada, and how, for the time being at least, it has all the reason to stay the same.
“Will Xi want that? I think so, and I think China’s citizens will want to keep doing business with (and immigrating to) Canada,” she said. In other words, if it ain’t broke, why fix it?
Professor Dongyan Blachford sees the same for Saskatchewan-China relations. The professor of Chinese cultural studies at the U of R noted that, during the Canadian premiers’ visit to China, Saskatchewan’s own Brad Wall was the lone premier chosen to give an interview on CCTV, China’s top television news network.
“(China) will continually need resources, and Canada and Saskatchewan will be a market that they will be interested in,” said Blachford.
It seems the change in China’s leadership will not affect China-Canada relations, at least for now. When the Congress meets in 2017, people in China’s next generation, like Su Yun, hope change will come in the form of free speech.
“From my generation, most people don’t feel well. Like they have something in their chest, but… you should better keep silent,” he said.