For only the second time in its history, the communist leadership of China has presided over a smooth, bloodless transfer of power. Xi Jinping, a 'princeling' son of a revolutionary father, will take over the top job as the general secretary of the communist party from Hu Jintao. Hu also handed over the leadership of the military to Xi. Come spring, Xi will take over as president and Li Keqian will ascend to the post of prime minister.
In recent months, as the succession drew near, there has been increasing criticism of Hu's leadership, which has led to slowing growth, increased corruption, the marginalisation of backward groups, riots in the countryside and a steady accretion of powers by the military. As Chinese wages have risen, its export-driven growth machine has slowed, and the leadership has encouraged a gradual shift from cheap, low-end manufacturing to high-valueadded stuff. This is not all bad: higher standards of living could boost consumption, adding another lever to China's export and investment-driven growth model. It will be interesting to see how the Xi-Li team responds to the other problems faced by China.
Indians should follow events in China closely. We have not bothered to formally sign border agreements with China, something that would settle 50 years of bickering and one disastrous war. Trade between India and China is stronger than ever, and mercantilist fears of being overwhelmed by cheap Chinese imports are abating. In contrast to China's diplomacy in its neighbourhood seas, India has dithered in the Bay of Bengal and the Indian Ocean. These oceans are vital for a variety of maritime traffic, including ships carrying energy from the Middle East to Asia.
India's efforts at building bridges with countries like Burma, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam have been sporadic at best, but today, these efforts need to be stepped up. Burma is beginning to open up, India cannot afford to ignore opportunities there. It will be good if China's new party leadership can succeed in reining in some of the authority appropriated by its military. A new leadership opens up the chance to recalibrate relationships. India should take the chance.
The Economic Times