Presidential Debate 2012: The Truth Obama and Romney Should Know About China


At Monday's presidential debate focused on foreign policy between President Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney, the issue of China is guaranteed to be a central discussion point, and source of tension, as the two candidates try to show the American people why they are stronger on foreign policy. 

But, with all the attention Governor Romney and President Obama will give to China during Monday's debate, it's important to first ask who's who in Chinese politics and what their political ideologies are? 

For live coverage of the presidential foreign policy debate on Monday, including real-time analysis and coverage, see here.

Just as important as the upcoming elections in November here in the United States, the upcoming leadership changeover that is to occur in China this October will have significant geo-political significance. Despite having a single party, the political atmosphere in China has two main factions in Beijing. But unlike the United States, the political rancor is mostly done behind closed doors, whereas politicians from the U.S. prefer sound bites and made-for-TV events. The two main factions within the Chinese Communist Party are the Elitist Coalition and the Populist Coalition.

Many of the Elitists come from either wealthy families or are related to past revolutionaries (who are part of a sub-group known as “The Princelings”). The Populists ranks are mostly filled with people who have come from working class families. The Elitists’ forte is in foreign investment, banking, and trade. The Populists work toward promotion of greater socio-economic prosperity for the people of China. Many Populists have steadily worked their way through the system and have gotten their start in the Chinese Communist Youth League. But in stark difference to the United States’ political landscape, both factions work together through compromise to achieve the greater goal of Chinese dominance on the world stage.

Here are some of the individuals in China who are vying for the 9 spots in China’s highest ranking leadership body, the Politburo Standing Committee. 

The Elitists:

Xi Jinping 

(China’s vice president and current member of the Politburo Standing Committee): The heir apparent to Hu Jintao. Xi Jinping favors development of the private sector and market liberalization in foreign investment.

Wang Qishan 

(China’s vice premier and member of the Politburo): Wang Qishan advocates for the liberalization of China’s financial system, and tax-revenue reforms in both the central and local government.

Zhang Dejiang 

(A vice premier of China and a member of the Politburo): Zhang Deijang favors the development of state-owned enterprises, promotion of ‘‘China’s Go Global Strategy,’’ and home-grown innovations.

Yu Zhengsheng 

(Politburo member and Shanghai Party chief): Promotes the private sector and urban development, along with legal development, and rule of law.

Zhang Gaoli 

(Politburo member and Tianjin Party chief): Wants market liberalization in foreign investment and economic efficiency. He is also a protégé of former General Secretary of the CCP Jiang Zemin.

Meng Jianzhu 

(minister of Public Security): Meng Jianzhu wants stability, and is actively promoting Shanghai’s role as a global center of finance and shipping

The Populists:

Li Keqiang 

(Member of the Politburo Standing Committee and executive vice premier): Li Keqiang favors development of affordable housing, basic health care, and promotion of clean energy. 

Li Yuanchao 

(Politburo member and head of the CCP Organization Department): Favors more democratic reforms, and anti-corruption measures.

Liu Yuanshan 

(Member of the Politburo and head of CCP Propaganda Department): Liu Yuanshan wants more effective control over media and the internet, and he advocates projecting China’s soft power worldwide.

Liu Yandong 

(Politburo Member and State Councilor): The only woman on the list, Liu Yandong wants greater political participation of both interest groups and NGOs in the political process.

Wang Yang 

(Politburo Member and Guangdong Party Chief): Wang Yang wants to change the economic growth mode, and promote both democracy and media transparency.

Ling Jihua 

(CCP General Office head): Ling Jihua favors the continuation of fellow Populist Hu Jintao’s socio-economic policies.

Hu Chunhua 

(Inner Mongolia Party chief): Hu Chunhua promotes social justice and economic equality, government accountability, and tougher measures to deal with corruption.