MILAN – As the Chinese Communist Party’s 19th National Congress has unfolded, much of the focus has been on who will occupy the key positions in President Xi Jinping’s administration for the next five years. But China’s future trajectory depends crucially on another group of leaders, who have received far less attention: the technocrats who will carry out the specific tasks associated with China’s economic reform and transformation.
Over the last four decades, China’s technocrats have collectively engineered a miraculous transformation. The current generation, a gifted group of policymakers, will step down in or around March 2018, passing the baton to a new generation. That generation – highly educated, experienced, and, for the most part, successful on their own merits – is prepared to carry China’s economic and social progress forward with great skill and dedication. The question is whether they will have an open field on which to run.
One thing is certain: the next generation of technocrats will face very different conditions from those confronted by their predecessors. China has reached a moment of significant uncertainty. Beyond the questions inherent in the process of generational turnover, there has been a dramatic shift in China’s dominant policy framework under Xi.
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