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彭博新闻:China survives a big year

作者:Noah Feldman    2012年12月27日 Bloomberg
The year 2012 will go into the history books as one of contrasting transitions. China’s five- year cycle for Communist Party congresses and leadership turnover overlapped with the U.S.’s four-year electoral calendar. And if that once-in-20-years coincidence wasn’t enough, Egypt’s rocky shift from dictatorship to democracy continues to remind us of what transition looks like in the absence of a predictable institutional framework.
The confluence of Chinese and American transitions marks an extraordinary historic development. The last time this happened, we might not have been able to predict the impeachment of Bill Clinton or the Supreme Court deciding the 2000 presidential election in Bush v. Gore. But any reasonable observer would have expected that presidential elections would continue in their ordinary course, and that the crises associated with impeachment and an uncertain electoral outcome would be resolved in a regular fashion, not by palace coups or purges.
By contrast, in 1992 it would have been essentially impossible to predict that China would soon embark on a regularized process for replacing the leadership of the Communist Party based on generational turnover. Five-year plans were nothing new -- the Chinese had inherited them from the Soviets -- but top leadership change didn’t follow that regular clock. Neither the oscillations of power that accompanied the Cultural Revolution nor the Tiananmen upheavals (both before and after the events of June 4, 1989) followed a predictable calendar.

Planned Retirement

Although the generation of Deng Xiaoping officially “retired” in 1992, no one thought this meant its members would actually relinquish political authority. In short, China was still ruled as a quasi-dictatorship. As a result, it was plagued by dictatorship-style uncertainty about who would come to power next, when, and how.
Over the past two decades, the situation has changed fundamentally. Gradually, after Deng’s death, it has become normal for China’s leaders to stand aside when their decade in office is done. As a result, observers in China and outside can now speculate with some confidence about who will come to power and when. Everyone knew that Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang would form the center of the new administration more than two years before they assumed office.
At the same time, the selection of officials throughout the Communist Party apparatus increasingly takes account of performance, not only loyalty to party discipline. Although recent studies suggest -- unsurprisingly -- that the meritocracy is far from perfect, it is broadly understood that the party members who specialize in the selection process try to advance cadres’ careers based on a mix of their talents, accomplishments, networks and commitment to the party.
Indeed, it is reasonable to infer that China’s most senior leadership engaged in a remarkable experiment. Through the system of internal selection and generational turnover, the party is trying to solve the problem of transitions without relying either on democratic elections or pure hereditary power. There are many sons and daughters of senior party members whose family connections have aided their rise, but to be a princeling isn’t enough: You also have to be good.
The upshot of these changes is that while China is still authoritarian, it is no longer a dictatorship. Dictators don’t cede power voluntarily, as the Arab Spring reminds us. And if a new dictator doesn’t emerge, the system can be thrown into near- chaos -- a process still playing out in Egypt.
Some observers in 2012 thought that the Communist Party apparatus was so focused on the transition -- on figuring out who was in and who was out -- that its leaders neglected pressing economic concerns. That might be true. Yet it isn’t so different from the situation in the U.S., where the direction of the economy and the precarious fiscal situation took a back seat for most of the long presidential campaign. Stable transitions tend to be elaborate, and elaborate transitions take time, effort and money. At least the Chinese didn’t waste upward of $2 billion on campaign advertising.

Conservatism Rules

The new reality of transitional stability in China tells us something crucial about how the new leadership will govern. Hard-won stability is an asset that the leadership has inherited and will not want to squander. Rapid change of any kind will therefore be anathema. Conservatism, not rapid reform, will be the order of the day.
Deng’s generation faced a major legitimacy challenge as the Soviet Union collapsed and traditional communist ideology was shown to be bankrupt. A serious crisis demanded bold measures, and the changes were far-reaching and rapid. Now, the party’s leaders have much more to lose -- including the tremendous asset of predictable transitions.
Of course, even conservative leaders have to keep their base satisfied. Xi has closer ties to the People’s Liberation Army than did his predecessors, and so is likely to be more hawkish. This closeness is reflected in his immediate assumption of the reins of the military -- unlike the last president, who waited two years. Xi probably won’t rapidly militarize the conflict with Japanaround the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands -- that would be insufficiently conservative -- but with the army in his camp, he also isn’t going to back down.
Yet here, too, China’s stability coming out of transition is historically noteworthy. Xi needs the military, but he doesn’t fear it in the way that Egypt’s Mohamed Mursi must fear the army that both produced and deposed his predecessor. When it comes to civilian control of the military, China is now more like the U.S. than like a developing-world dictatorship.
China isn’t on the royal road to democracy or to capitalism without major state direction. But in 2012 it reaped the benefits of its historic move away from dictatorship -- and in historical and comparative terms, that’s impressive enough.
Noah Feldman, a law professor at Harvard University and the author of “Scorpions: The Battles and Triumphs of FDR’s Great Supreme Court Justices,” is a Bloomberg View columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.




2012年将因形形色色的各种政权更替而载入史册。中国共产党五年一度的代表大会与美国四年一度的总统大选时间重合。如果这二十年一度的重合还不够刺激,埃及从专制走向民主的坎坷转型则不断地提醒我们,缺少稳定体制的政权转移会是何种景象。
中美同时政权交替彰显了非凡的历史发展阶段。二十年前的我们,不可能预感到比尔·克林顿遭遇弹劾危机,美国最高法院竟决定了2000年老布什和戈尔大选对决结果。但任何一位理性的观察家都可以预见总统大选仍将按照常规进程举行,并且,弹劾与选情意外能通过常规途径化解,而不会出现宫廷政变或政治清洗。
与此形成鲜明对比的是,1992年时人们几乎不可能预测到,中共领导层能够通过常规化途径进行政权交替。五年计划不是什么新鲜概念,中国人已经从苏联学到了,但最高领导层的交接则没有按同时段进行。文化大革命与89风波所造成的权力动荡都没写在事先制定的议程上。
尽管邓小平一代1992年正式“退休”,没人真的相信他们真正放弃了政治权威。简言之,中国当时仍处于半独裁时期。于是,各种独裁式的不确定因素层出不穷,谁上台、什么时候公布、以什么方式确定权威,不一而足。
过去二十年间,形势发生了翻天覆地的变化。邓小平逝世后,中国领导人逐渐以十年为一个阶段主动退隐。因此,国内外的观察家们对于谁上台、什么时候上台有了些许把握。习近平与李克强上台两年以前,外界已有预期。
同时,通过共产党内部机制遴选官员,也日益以能力为标准,而非对党纪的忠诚度。最近的研究表明,这种选贤任能的机制还有待完善,这并不令人惊讶。不过,人们逐渐认识到,专职挑选党内人材的党员会综合考虑才干、政绩、人际关系和对党的忠诚度等因素,以此来发展干部前途。
实际上我们可以断定,中国最高领导层进行了一次非同寻常的试验。共产党通过内部选拔和次代交替,要以不同于选举或世袭的途径解决权力更替问题。许多高层党员的子女利用了他们的优势,但太子党的身份不足以保住官位:你还必须是个好干部。
这些变化的关键是,中国虽然保留了威权主义,但绝不再是个独裁国家。独裁者不可能主动让出权力,阿拉伯之春向我们明白地指出了这一点。如果新的独裁者不出现,体制就会逐步混乱,就像埃及现在这样。
一些观察家2012年时提出,中共体制过于关注政权更替,只关心谁进谁出,却忽视了经济议题。也许吧。但这与美国又有何不同:漫长的总统竞选期间,经济走向和财政状况完全被抛在了脑后。稳定的权力更替需要细致的过程,而细致的过程则需要时间、精力和金钱。至少中国没有浪费20亿美元打竞选广告。
中国实现了稳定的权力交接,这一新的现实告诉我们一个重要信息:新政权将以何种方式治理国家。稳定局面来之不易,领导层将倍感珍惜。任何突变都不可容忍。保守主义当道,而非急剧的改革。
邓小平一代当时面临着巨大的政权合法性挑战,苏联垮台,传统的共产主义意识形态似乎破产了。一系列的危机呼唤着大手笔的改革,当时采取的措施立竿见影、影响深远。如今,中共领导人肩负的担子更重了,扛起了政权常规交替这一重要资产。
当然,保守主义领导人也需要打好基础。习近平与军队的关系比前任更为密切,可能会展现强硬的姿态。他当即掌握了军权,而前任则等待了两年。从这一点便可看出习近平与军队的关系。习近平不会将钓鱼岛争端立即军事化——那不够稳健——但有军队的鼎力支持,他同样不会轻易退缩。
中国稳定的权力交接还有着历史意义。习近平需要军队支持,但他不需要像埃及的穆尔西一样担心发动政变的军方。在文官掌握军权这方面,中国更接近美国,而不像是一个发展中国家的独裁政权。
中国既没有执着地走向民主道路,也没有奔向脱离国家管制的资本主义道路。2012年中国脱离了独裁体制,无论从历史的纵向角度,还是从横向的角度比较,都足以令世人赞叹。
作者诺阿·菲尔德曼是哈佛大学法学教授。
彭博社2012年12月27日刊发,观察者网译


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