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101 East
China: Whispers of change
China's Communist Party is about to confirm a new generation of leaders, but is the party resistant to change?
Last Modified: 02 Nov 2012 12:39

As it prepares to appoint a new generation of leaders, China's ruling Communist Party faces increasing pressure to change. A series of scandals has chipped away at the party's image of unity and a weakening economy threatens to raise public dissatisfaction.

The ascendance of Xi Jinping to the presidency and Li Keqiang to prime minister is in little doubt, but questions swirl over who will fill the remaining positions in the Politburo Standing Committee, which wields the ultimate political power in China.

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The sacking of former Chongqing party chief Bo Xilai last spring set off shockwaves across the political establishment and exposed fissures within the leadership.

A slowing economy and an increasingly restive society fed up with corruption and what it sees as a privileged elite held unaccountable by law are bringing new calls for reform.

Many wonder whether China's leadership has grown so entrenched with its own financial interests that it is incapable of adapting. And some worry that without effective reform, the nation risks fragmenting into a new Cultural Revolution-style crisis.

Populists want to remake the party to reflect Mao Zedong's early vision, redistributing government riches to the people. A so-called new democracy movement, led by a rural economist and journalist named Zhang Musheng, is gaining followers with a plan to add checks and balances to one-party rule and to significantly expand welfare benefits.

A second Communist camp wants to open the party to internal competition, abandoning the leadership's facade of unity and letting rival factions take their ideas to the wider party for approval.

Meanwhile, the public, which stands outside the halls of political power, can only watch and wonder if anything will change.

In this episode of 101 East, we look at the significance of this once-in-a-decade handover and explore the different visions for changing China's leadership. Will China stick to the status quo, or will it reform in a planned methodical manner or in a flurry of protests from a disgruntled populace?

 
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Al Jazeera
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