While we wait for the announcement later today of who will govern China over the next five to ten years, it is worth digesting a few facts about China's new group of 205 most influential citizens.
These are the 195 men and 10 women selected on Wednesday as members of the new Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party before the closing of the 18th National Congress. Additionally, there is a group of 171 alternate members of the Central Committee, the so-called B-Group of the country's most prestigious citizens.
The number of women among Central Committee members dropped from 13 to 10, remarkable considering the tiny proportion of females chosen in 2007. China has sent its first female astronaut into space, but Communist Party politics remains basically a mens club. The present 24-member Politburo has one female member, Liu Yandong. Though she has been mentioned as a candidate for the all-powerful Politburo Standing Committee, it is highly unlikely she will be among that group when it today marches on to the stage in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.
Another discriminated group within the Chinese political domain is the business community. Not a single entrepreneur made it on to the Central Committee, even as an alternate member.
Unsurprisingly, the new Central Committee includes all the men and women who have been tipped to be among candidates to be elevated today to the Politburo and all-powerful Politburo Standing Committee. Equally unsurprising is that real competition even for this larger group of leaders was extremely limited, with only 19 candidates eliminated from a list of 224 names on the basis of the secret ballot.
Those who had hoped that the much touted 'intra-Party democracy' would be strengthened to actually introduce a competitive process were proven wishful thinkers. China's senior leaders are not ready to permit anything other than a predetermined group of people leading the country.
Today the new Central Committee ceremoniously 'elects' the new Politburo and Politburo Standing Committee. This selection will be totally devoid of intra-Party democracy. Though no one knows the precise details of how the selection ultimately happens, we do know that it does not take place on the basis of a secret ballot and the number of candidates will be the same as the number of members selected.
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.