In November 2012, seven men were appointed to the Politburo Standing Committee, China’s supreme governing body. At the time, economic headwinds, nationalist protests, and the Bo Xilai scandal presented huge challenges for the regime. Would the charismatic new president, Xi Jinping, and his reform-minded premier, Li Keqiang, live up to comparisons to Deng Xiaoping and Zhu Rongji, or would “China’s Century” be over before it had begun? It still may be too early to say, but a year later the Xi-Li regime has consolidated power and support within the party. Major pushes against corruption, bribery, and graft have been made. Economic reforms, including a new free trade zone in Shanghai, are well underway, and the sharp dip in growth of the past two years seems to have stabilized. Xi has worked to repair relations with China’s neighbors, which had been tarnished under Hu Jintao.
Even so, those who hope for reforms to China’s approach to civil and human rights have yet to see substantial progress. Xi’s “Chinese Dream” policy remains vague, and income inequality is staggeringly high. Furthermore, maritime disputes and the nationalist tone of Xi’s rhetoric have made imminent reconciliation with countries including Japan and the Philippines appear unlikely.
Nearly a year to the day after the seven leaders ascended to their posts, as a part of the Asia: Beyond the Headlines event series Asia Society held a special conversation with The New Yorker’s Evan Osnos; Dr. Susan Shirk of the University of California, San Diego; Former Ambassador to China J. Stapleton Roy; and moderator Orville Schell, who discussed China’s leadership transition so far—its successes, shortcomings, and controversies—as well as what the future may have in store for Zhongnanhai, China, and the world.