Faction Politics in China and its Implications for the 20th Party Congress

By – Omkar Bhole;

Most countries in the world have a political system where like-minded people from similar groups or parties run the country. However, such a system is largely open and transparent in democratic countries. In the case of China, this system, referred to as factionalism, is too opaque and thus, leaves much room for speculation. The system of collective leadership introduced by Deng Xiaoping ensured power sharing between different factions. Thus, different factions in China used to ensure checks and balances and put limits on the authority of top leaders. This system was continued during the Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao era. However, under Xi Jinping, this informal political system has been systematically weakened, leading to creation of a separate Xi faction based on his personal connections. Xi’s anti-corruption campaign has largely targeted leaders from his rival Shanghai and Youth League factions to such an extent that these factions are now struggling to survive in China’s elite politics. The upcoming 20th Party Congress will further strengthen the Xi faction and this will be not only limited to personnel appointments but also be reflected in policy preferences.

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