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China’s new leadership: who’s in charge, why it matters

China recently held an election and voted in a new President, which most Americans overlooked, but it has a massive impact on business both abroad and at home. Here’s how it all went down.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen speaks with Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping in Beijing on July 11, 2011. Department of Defense photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen speaks with Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping in Beijing on July 11, 2011. Department of Defense photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley.

Largest Communist nation has a shift in power

On November 8th, China, the world’s largest Communist nation, held it’s 18th congress to elect a new President and other key leaders. While the American people were caught up in our own political process, many didn’t take note of the shift in leadership in China. Some argue that this change of power makes no difference, others say it is crucial to the financial stability of the US. Whatever the case may be, it’s important to understand the key inner workings of the Chinese political process, even if its just to add your two cents to the water cooler conversation.

How elections work in China

The Communist Party of China (CPC) is the 82 million member party that rules China. The National Congress of the CPC (the Party Congress) meets every five years to unveil major leadership changes. Of all the millions of members of the Communist Party, only about 370, the members of the Central Committee, are responsible for electing all key leadership.

Top players in the process

Like most political systems, the 80/20 rule applies; 80% of the work/product/result is done by 20% of the people. The top players are very few in number. Key people to keep in mind are:

Why it matters, what to pay attention to

Since China still holds the bulk of the US debt, it’s crucial to be aware of changes not only in their economy but in their government. Some worry that the new General Secretary may call our debt or devalue our currency. As China continues to dominate the global stage, understanding how and who China works with is of utmost importance, especially during leadership changes. In my opinion, the key relationships to pay attention to are China & Africa, China & the US, and China & Mexico.

Interesting facts

  • Most of the important decisions about leadership change occur prior to the National Congress.
  • While often referred to as “President,” the leader’s actual title is “General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China.”
  • Former General Secretary Jiang Zemin was invited to this year’s National Congress.
  • Senior leaders 68 years of age or older are considered too old to serve as new leadership.
  • Party chiefs are limited to two five-year terms.
  • Check out this English version of the Chinese Xinhua news for information on all things National Congress.

Written By

Monica Moffitt, founder and Principal Cultural Consultant at Tianfen Consulting, Inc., has traveled the world and enjoys linguistics and all things culture. Having split her career between project management and business analytics, Monica merges logic, fluency in Chinese and creativity in her new role as cultural consultant. She received a Bachelor of Arts in East Asian Studies/Chinese from Vanderbilt University and a Master of Business Administration (International Management and Marketing) from University of Texas at Dallas.

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