The party has evolved over the decades, but has not changed its stripes.
Barely a generation ago, it had few university graduates on its Central Committee or the elite Politburo. Loyalty to a single paramount leader and revolutionary credentials were essential qualifications for senior officials. According to its defenders, the party has now become a model of technocratic efficiency where leaders are chosen on merit.
However, the rules and criteria of selection are vague; claims of a meritocracy are unconvincing as the track record is too brief; expertise is still cloaked in political correctness, and fierce in-fighting among competing personal factions is not the same as checks and balances found in Western governments.
For those hoping for a stable and prosperous China, the picture of a Leninist autocracy presiding over the world’s 2nd largest economy and a burgeoning society presents a bundle of contradictions and frustrations. Many of those contradictions surface in China’s vibrant social media, where criticism of government abounds, along with biting irony and sarcasm.
The coincidence of the American presidential election in the same week that China’s 18th party congress opened was a unique opportunity for displays of popular Chinese wit and wisdom. For instance, a report in China’s state-run news media about the “shame” of Americans waiting in line for many hours to vote drew typically biting responses from readers.
“We’ve been waiting for 4,000 years” one person responded, mocking the negativity. “I’ve been waiting for 63 years,” wrote another in reference to the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949. “At least catch up with Vietnam,” another one commented to the Financial Times, referring to Vietnam’s internal elections for top positions in the ruling party.