Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

Experts detail 5 challenges for China

By Hilary Whiteman, CNN
November 16, 2012 -- Updated 1622 GMT (0022 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Experts explain what they think is China's biggest challenge
  • Economist Li Gan stresses the country's need to get the poor spending
  • Stephanie Kleine-Ahlbrandt from International Crisis Group writes on China's foreign policy
  • Issues of too many men, sustainable growth and factional splits are said to be issues

Editor's note: What are the biggest challenges faced by China's new leaders? We put the question to five experts and here's what they said. Add your own ideas in the comments section below.

Hong Kong (CNN) -- Well that's that. After one week of mingling with elite Party loyalists, China's Communist leaders have wrapped up their 18th National Congress.

The next will be in five years time when the presumptive new president -- Xi Jinping -- delivers his thoughts on the challenges, ambitions and threats facing the world's most populous country.

Read our live blog for the latest on China's new leaders

His predecessor Hu Jintao fired a flare on the first day of the Congress about the threat of corruption and its power to potentially bring down China's Communist regime.

"If we fail to handle this issue well, it could prove fatal to the party, and even cause the collapse of the party and the fall of the state," he told delegates.

China's next leaders: Who's who

CNN asked five experts to explain what they see to be China's most pressing challenge. It's by no means a complete list, presented in no particular order.

1. Factional divisions

Plenty of analysis has accompanied this year's Congress as to the fine -- and not so fine -- lines that split the ideologies and loyalties of the members of the Politburo Standing Committee.

But will any fracture lines be enough to tilt the Party towards reform? China commentator Willy Lam weighs in, noting that "even before the birth of the People's Republic in 1949, factions within the party had fought over the future direction of the country."

Xi Jinping
Xi Jinping

The "struggle between two lines" during Mao's rule has morphed into divisions according to family ties to revolutionary leaders and guidance from powerful mentors.

Li Keqiang
Li Keqiang

"Since the early 1990s, three major factions have emerged within the party: the Shanghai faction led by ex-president Jiang Zemin, the Communist Youth League (CYL) faction led by President Hu Jintao, and the "Gang of Princelings" -- a reference to the offspring of party elders -- led by president-in-waiting Xi Jinping.

What's the potential for one to win out? Lam explains.

2. More spending, less saving

In 2011, a team of researchers led by economist Li Gan started asking questions to compile the most comprehensive study so far of household wealth in China.

They found that the top 10% of income earners are sitting on most of the wealth.

The low savings rate of most Chinese households surveyed suggest they simply don't have the money to spend. To move toward a consumer-based economy, therefore, raising the income -- and spending -- levels for the poor is key.

Gan explains here what China needs to do.

3. Pouring water on disputes

Don't expect China to turn the other cheek when it comes to regional disputes, writes Stephanie Kleine-Ahlbrandt from International Crisis Group.

"Beijing is keen to prevent the world from concluding that China has discarded the notion of a peaceful rise," Kleine-Ahlbrandt writes. She says China's going down the path of "reactive assertiveness."

One example is China's attitude in response to Japan's purchase of islands disputed by both countries in the East China Sea.

Find out whether Kleine-Ahlbrandt thinks the country's new leaders are likely to change tact.

CNN

4. Too many men

Faced with a surging population, China attempted to put the brakes on procreation in the late 1970s by implementing a controversial policy limiting couples in some areas to just one child.

Since then, a cultural bias towards male children has led to a skewed child sex ratio where millions of men, or "bare branches" face an uncertain future due to the lack of potential female partners, writes evolutionary biologist Rob Brooks.

"It would be difficult to overstate the urgent need for China to emulate South Korea in eliminating sex-biased abortion and neglect," Brooks writes.

Studies show, he says, what can happen if it doesn't.

5. Learning the three Rs

The legacy of China's powerhouse of cheap, labor-intensive exports is a natural environment tainted by the pollutants of economic growth.

Author Geoff Hiscock says securing the food, water and air security of China's 1.35 billion people is one of the leadership's biggest challenges.

"Beijing and other parts of northeastern China are already water-stressed, the air quality in inland mega-cities such as Chongqing and Chengdu is abysmal, farming land is being poisoned by toxic runoff from mining and industrial activities, acid rain blights large parts of south China, contagious disease is an ever-present risk among its livestock, and unscrupulous makers sell tainted foodstuffs," Hiscock writes.

So what can China do about it? More from Hiscock.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion

CNN's Kevin Voigt and Paul Armstrong contributed to this report.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
September 23, 2014 -- Updated 0039 GMT (0839 HKT)
He's one of the fieriest political activists in Hong Kong — he's been called an "extremist" by China's state-run media — and he's not old enough to drive.
September 16, 2014 -- Updated 0929 GMT (1729 HKT)
Christians in eastern China keep watch in Wenzhou, where authorities have demolished churches and removed crosses.
September 10, 2014 -- Updated 0538 GMT (1338 HKT)
Home-grown hip-hop appeals to a younger generation but its popularity has not translated into record deals and profits for budding rap artists.
September 9, 2014 -- Updated 0545 GMT (1345 HKT)
Reforms to the grueling gaokao - the competitive college entrance examination - don't make the grade, says educator Jiang Xueqin.
September 5, 2014 -- Updated 1218 GMT (2018 HKT)
Beijing grapples with reports from Iraq that a Chinese national fighting for ISIS has been captured.
September 1, 2014 -- Updated 0200 GMT (1000 HKT)
CNN's David McKenzie has tasted everything from worms to grasshoppers while on the road; China's cockroaches are his latest culinary adventure.
September 5, 2014 -- Updated 0057 GMT (0857 HKT)
Beijing rules only candidates approved by a nominating committee can run for Hong Kong's chief executive.
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1914 GMT (0314 HKT)
China warns the United States to end its military surveillance flights near Chinese territory.
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 0312 GMT (1112 HKT)
China has produced elite national athletes but some argue the emphasis on winning discourages children. CNN's Kristie Lu Stout reports
August 19, 2014 -- Updated 0513 GMT (1313 HKT)
Chinese are turning to overseas personal shoppers to get their hands on luxury goods at lower prices.
August 15, 2014 -- Updated 0908 GMT (1708 HKT)
Experts say rapidly rising numbers of Christians are making it harder for authorities to control the religion's spread.
August 11, 2014 -- Updated 0452 GMT (1252 HKT)
"I'm proud of their moral standing," says Harvey Humphrey. His parents are accused of corporate crimes in China.
August 6, 2014 -- Updated 1942 GMT (0342 HKT)
A TV confession detailing a life of illegal gambling and paid-for sex has capped the dramatic fall of one of China's most high-profile social media celebrities.
July 31, 2014 -- Updated 0410 GMT (1210 HKT)
President Xi Jinping's campaign to punish corrupt Chinese officials has snared its biggest target -- where can the campaign go from here?
July 30, 2014 -- Updated 0712 GMT (1512 HKT)
All you need to know about the tainted meat produce that affects fast food restaurants across China, Hong Kong, and Japan.
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 0230 GMT (1030 HKT)
Some savvy individuals in China are claiming naming rights to valuable foreign brands. Here's how companies can combat them.
July 16, 2014 -- Updated 0911 GMT (1711 HKT)
Is the Chinese president a true reformist or merely a "dictator" in disguise? CNN's Beijing bureau chief Jaime FlorCruz dissects the leader's policies
July 8, 2014 -- Updated 0344 GMT (1144 HKT)
With a population of 1.3 billion, you'd think that there would be 11 people in China who are good enough to put up a fight on the football pitch.
ADVERTISEMENT