- The Washington Times - Friday, November 29, 2002

Recent changes in leadership at the highest levels of the communist apparatus that leads China do not signal significant alterations in the policies of that government or in its relationship with the United States, according to analysts at a forum this week sponsored by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
"We are very unlikely to see major changes in foreign and defense policy because of this leadership change," said Michael Swaine, co-director of the China Program at Carnegie.
The meetings this month of the 16th Congress of the Chinese Communist Party contrasted with past every-five-year leadership transitions as a relatively conflict-free transfer of power.
Most significant was the ascension of the so-called "fourth generation" of Chinese communist leaders to the top echelons of the party. This new, younger group consists of leaders in their late 50s to early 60s.
Analysts at the Carnegie forum said that although Hu Jintao was chosen by Chinese President Jiang Zemin to replace him as party chief, Mr. Hu is not a strong leader. He also does not represent a real shift in power or ideology, they said. Mr. Jiang's choice underscores the fact that it is not clear whether the powerful Mr. Jiang will be leaving his post as president early next year, as some have predicted.
David M. Lampton, director of China studies at Johns Hopkins University's Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, said the new members of the Politburo the top advisers and officials under the president also have limited power and foreign-policy experience.
He added that although it is still not clear what the changes in leadership may mean, all the new advisers have ties to Mr. Jiang, a fact that many are interpreting as showing his intent to retain his control over the Chinese government.
Minxin Pei, co-director of the China Program at Carnegie, said the transition is not an attempt to bring changes in China's policy-making.
"This situation is set up to retain Jiang Zemin as president, not effective decision-making," said Mr. Pei. "Everything will go through him."
Mr. Lampton said the choice in advisers showed the likely continuation of current Chinese foreign and economic policy, which he noted is good for the United States, because in the current geopolitical situation, Chinese and American needs serve each other's interests.
Although the Bush administration came to power with a hostile view of China's role on the world stage, Mr. Lampton said the country is now seen by the White House as a power able to help the United States maintain stability in the region during the war against terrorism. This change in the Bush administration's view also enables China to keep domestic policy as its central focus, which pleases that country's leadership.
"The two countries have come to a very compatible strategic understanding," Mr. Lampton said.


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