Key promotion in China

Player utilities

Listen to the Story.

Audio Transcript:

MARCO WERMAN: It didn't come as much of a surprise today. China's Communist Party ended its four-day meeting with the promotion of Vice President Xi Jinping to a key military post. That may sound like mere bureaucratic shuffling. But it's another sign that Xi is likely to become China's next president. Also at the meeting, China's leaders promised rapid economic growth and efforts to promote political restructuring. The World's Mary Kay Magistad covered the four-day meeting of the ruling party's governing Central Committee in Beijing. China plays such a big part in the world now, Mary Kay. It's pretty consequential to Americans who's running the show in Beijing. So tell us about this new guy. Xi is described as a �princeling,� what does that even mean?

MARY KAY MAGISTAD: Princeling means that he's the child of a senior Communist party leader. His father actually was a guerilla when the Communists were trying to come to power. He was a Vice Premier. Xi Jinping has served as a party leader himself in Zhejiang Province and Shanghai, both places considered fairly progressive. And he is believed to be fairly progressive in his economic policies, however on the political side, just over the past year, he was placed in charge of an internal Communist party office that was part of the crackdown on intellectuals, the internet, and non-government organizations. So, hard to know what he's going to be like when he's in power, if indeed, as is expected. He does come to power both as president and as Communist party chief over the next couple of years.

WERMAN: So, Xi's star is on the rise and his wife, Peng Liyuan, is something of a star in her own right.

MAGISTAD: Right. She's a singer and not very media friendly lately. I have tried to interview her, so have other journalists, and ever since Xi Jinping because Vice-President, she's been sort of keeping her distance.

WERMAN: Mary Kay, is it hard to cover these four-day central committee congresses in which there are important little bits between the lines of news, but basically I would imagine it's a lot of boilerplates that you have to sit through?

MAGISTAD: Well, you don't really sit through it because journalists and, especially foreign journalists, aren't welcome any where near the proceedings. Basically it's very opaque and we have to cover it by talking to those on the fringes and then waiting to see what comes out of the meeting itself in terms of the communique and in terms of the news reports within China. And then talk that comes out afterward as details that perhaps didn't get into the official accounts trickle out.

WERMAN: I mean it's interesting, the opaque qualities you describe, Mary Kay, to these party congresses. I mean just last week, shortly after the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to Liu Xiaobo, there was a letter from 23 former Communist party heads saying we need more transparency. China needs to stop the censorship. Was that letter discussed at the meeting this weekend?

MAGISTAD: Not at all. The closest that the party came in its communique that you've been touching on. Anything related to political reform was to say that China would pursue vigorous, yet steady political development and would be open to oversight from the masses. But that's the kind of wording that there's done in communiques in China from the Communist party for many, many years. But it's interesting. I mean there are more voices speaking publically these days. Liu Xiaobo, this letter from 23 former senior Communist party members, including a former secretary to Mao Zedong, saying this isn't what we were supposed to be about, we can do better than this, we should have more public debate, we should get rid of censorship, and if you're afraid to do that then what are doing really? If we're really confident of the job we're doing in China as the leading party of a very successful country, we should be able to be open to criticism and open to comment from the public.

WERMAN: The World's Mary Kay Magistad in Shanghai. Thank you very much as always.

MAGISTAD: Thank you, Marco.