[Editorial] Hu as military chief
Watching Hu Jintao take over from Jiang
Zemin as chairman of China`s Central Military Commission, his third hat after
party general secretary and state president, two things come to our mind. The
concentration of power in Beijing could somehow lead China to more active
participation in regional security affairs, such as the North Korean nuclear
problem, while a more assertive stance could be expected in its relations with
neighbors, already expressed in the current controversy over the history of the
ancient Goguryeo dynasty.
Words from Beijing`s leadership now with more consolidated power will have
greater weight on Pyongyang officials as China pushes a multilateral process to
solve the nuclear issue involving its neighbor and long time ally. The North has
rejected the next round of talks in Beijing scheduled for later this month but
it would be discourteous for them to shun further invitation.
The power transition through the fourth plenum of the 16th Central Committee
looked notably orderly, indicating irreversible evolution of the political
mechanism in China. For the first time in Chinese Communist history, succession
was made without the purge of a rival.
On the final day of its four-day closed-door session, the Central Committee
"accepted the resignation" of Jiang, who still had three more years to complete
his tenure. The whole process is still somewhat hazy and there was a hint of
pressure on the old leader from the younger elite for an early departure, but it
looks like a transparent leadership contest within the party may not be too far
away. In the key party meeting, Hu stressed introducing internal elections to
make the party`s working more fair and open.
Hu`s power consolidation was further evidenced by the naming of Xu Caihou, a
61-year-old People`s Liberation Army political chief, as the vice chairman of
the military commission, instead of Jiang`s closest ally, Vice President Zeng
Qinghong. Still, China watchers predict Hu will have to maintain Jiang`s
hardline policy against Taiwan`s "independence" moves in order to fasten his
grip on the military.
In the long run, however, the fourth generation Chinese leadership will have
to seek a more pragmatic way in tackling the Taiwan question. Yet, President
Chen Shui-bian of Taipei should restrain his aggressive stance toward the
mainland and never try to test the will of the Beijing leadership. The Central
Committee`s communique warned mildly but unequivocally that "the party will
contain `Taiwan independence` separatist forces and unswervingly safeguard
national sovereignty and territorial integrity." President Roh Moo-hyun will
probably have chances to meet Hu when he attends the Asia-Pacific Economic
Cooperation (APEC) summit in Santiago and the ASEAN Plus Three summit in
Vientiane in November. Their conversations, we hope, will extend beyond the
controversy over Goguryeo history, for which Hu is known to be personally
responsible, and explore ways to promote economic and security cooperation.
(Korea Herald 2004-9-21)