The French have their liberte, egalite, fraternite. We Americans pride ourselves with, "We the People," and the much-quoted Abe Lincoln triune formula of "government of the people, by the people, and for the people."
Beijing’s socialism with the Zhongguo face uses the terms "Revolution, Development, Reform," probably more colorful in the Zhongwen characters than the English translation or in our limited Pinyin (with the help of a pda) on the title. In any case, President Hu Jintao last year used the terms to describe the CPC’s version of socialism with Chinese characteristics in his speech at the 90th founding anniversary of the Communist Party of China.
Today in Beijing at the Great Hall of the People, the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China begins. Age limits restrict seven of the nine members of the Politburo Standing Committee from further service. This includes current CPC General Secretary Hu Jintao and the amiable Premier Wen Jiabao. The Congress of 2,270 delegates from 40 constituencies elects a Central Committee, which in turn elects the nation’s head officers.
Expected to succeed Hu Jintao is Xi Jinping, and Wen Jiabao, Li Keqiang. They will lead a Politburo returning to its former seven-member makeup that grew into nine in 2002 when public security and propaganda portfolios were added. The portfolios return to the Central Committee.
(For those who wish to follow-up developments, the membership of the Politburo Standing Committee, along with Xi Jinping as General Secretary and Li Keqiang as Premier of the State Council, is expected to include Yu Zhengsheng as Chairman of the National People’s Congress, Zhang Dejiang as Chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, Li Yuanchao as Secretariat Secretary and Vice President, Wang Qishan as First Vice Premier, and Wang Yang as Secretary of the Central Commission for Disciplinary Inspection.)
In the recently concluded elections in the CNMI and the United States, both are dependent on a "macho" leadership style. Irrespective of gender, the same direct and assertive style is held true for Britain’s late Thatcher, Oz’ Girard, Germany’s Merkel, and our Hillary swigging brew straight from the bottle.
A culture adept at indirection, China takes a different approach. Two movies are very telling about how the "propaganda" arm of the party handles its image. First, there was Zhang Yimou’s celebrated film Hero, with Jet Li in the lead role. The story revolves around the lead character out to assassinate Zhi Huangdi of the Qin dynasty, not particularly known for suave imperial manners but did manage to unite China from warring factions. The hero finally meets the emperor but instead of killing him, he decides that the unifying emperor has a more important fate than his own, and goes out of the palace to face a barrage of arrows.
The movie may be seen as the picture of a strong leader like Mao Zedong who was at the time of the movie getting maligned as the cause of all of China’s economic woes and miseries. "Maybe," the movie was saying, "but he unified China, and we must be thankful." Mao’s image remains in all the Renminbi paper currencies from the 1¥ to the 100¥, and his grandfatherly picture remains at the gate of the Forbidden City in Beijing fronting the Tiananmen Square.
Two years ago, we got Confucius, about the revered guru of China whose teachings are the basis for the civil service exams during the Ming and Qing dynasties. The movie depicts a Kung Fu Zi who disdained war, though the sovereign relied on him to provide war strategy, remained humble and faithful even to those ingrates he served who turned against him, promoted harmony and unity at every turn, went to his calligraphic brush rather than the sword to exonerate himself by gathering the nation’s classics, and using the image of the family in his pedagogy as the metaphor for social relations.
After the global recession of 2007, China emerged as an economic giant. The militaristic right (ideological Marxists and unreformed imperial warriors) in its rank wanted to take a belligerent relationship to a weakened West. Hu Jintao and xiao panda Wen Jiabao, not unlike Confucius, stayed with the traditional Chinese policy of balance and harmony, and its foreign policy has stayed that way, even with the ill-conceived Japanese encroachment on China’s sovereign islands of Diaoyou.
At the National People’s Congress come March 2013, we will watch a historic handover of power, from the "paramount leader" style of Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaopeng reformed to a conciliatory "collective" leadership mode that has been observed by shared power within the Politburo since 2002. After this week, Xi Yinping and Li Kejiang will make seven men (yes, China’s politics remains predominantly male) form a new collective leadership to guide a new nation to its new role in the world.
Not unhappily, Chinese men are now encouraged by a new popular song not to be ashamed to show emotion and even cry in public (ku ba, ku ba, ku ba). A soft touch, won’t you say? Gan bei!
* * *
Jaime R. Vergara (email@example.com) previously taught at San Vicente Elementary School on Saipan and is currently a guest lecturer at Shenyang Aerospace University in China.