The election was only ever going to have a result. As expected, 59-year-old Xi Jinping was elected as president of China on 14 March at the National People’s Congress, consolidating its position as supreme leader, and giving control of the three poles of power: State one-party, military, and now.
The joke going around Beijing is: “The Americans say:” We voted in the morning and know that our president is in the afternoon. “The Chinese say:” Those fools! We voted in the morning and last year we knew it was going to be our president. ‘”
Humor aside, the vote counts-2, 952 in favor, three abstentions and one vote alone against, has hot trigger speculation, perhaps to the chagrin of the party leadership: an enormous pressure on the delegates to elect the candidate anointed by members of the major parties, that bothers refrain, and most importantly, has the gall to vote No?
The reality is that no one is likely to ever know. As in the past, the vote took place on the ballot paper; each sealed in a red envelope, and then fell into an urn. There appears to be easy for senior members of the party to find out who voted against Xi and why, but were willing to try. (Some political observers in Beijing came to wonder if Xi himself was responsible for the vote against, while others said they probably abstained.)
“I can not think of a meaningful explanation of what these negative votes and abstentions say,” said Andrew Nathan, professor of political science at Columbia University. “They may reflect animosity Xi or dissatisfaction with the process itself, or any of a host of other reasons.”
Certainly, official approval rating Xi is nothing to scoff even compared to the high bar set by totalitarian dictators. As Eric Fish, editor in Beijing in the Economic Observer said on Twitter: “Xi Jinping win 99.86% 97.62% Net heads Bashar al-Assad in 2007, but just shy of 99.98% Kim Jong IL in 2009.”
It is also noteworthy that in the Chinese system, abstentions and votes against are not new. When outgoing leader Hu Jintao took office a decade ago, there were four votes against him, along with three abstentions, to 99.76 percent, the level of support was considered impressively high, said Jean-Pierre Cabestan, head of government and international studies at Hong Kong Baptist University. “This raises the question, who is the black sheep who voted against Xi Jinping,” says Cabestan. “But you can not compare with the votes that took place 10 years ago.”
In that same NPC in 2003, retired festival, Zeng Qinghong, 73 years old, had an impressive 190 abstentions and 177 votes against him in his choice for vice president, giving him an approval rating of less than its 88 percent-very close relationship with then-President Jiang Zemin outgoing, now 86, had damaged his position, said Cabestan.
Jiang himself, widely regarded as the most powerful leader in China retired today, only won 92.53 percent of the vote for permanent president of the Central Military Commission, 98 against and 122 abstained, with many of disapproval of its decision to hold on to control of the military and he resigned the presidency and the role of party secretary.
Xi also outperformed their delegates: today’s vote to grant 57-year-old Li Keqiang, the Prime Minister had 2940-3, with six abstentions. Zhou Qiang, who became head of the Supreme People’s Court, did even worse, with 2,908 votes in favor, 26 against and 23 abstentions.
It is also interesting to see how many delegates will vote for the government work report and the budget of the Ministry of Finance report, both expected to occur on March 17. These votes can be something of a referendum on outgoing Hu Jintao and leaders Wen Jiabao performance during the 10 years they were in power.
At one point, of course, China’s top leaders demanded unanimity in politics. This has proven true in the 1949 elections Mao Zedong giving the title of president, of the 546 who voted, the dissident who voted against a respected philosopher Dongsun Zhang, was chased for most of the rest of his life, writes journalist Dai Qing activist.
“Under the Maoist rule, it was a totalitarian system, they wanted absolute control and a unanimous vote,” says Feng Chongyi, associate professor of Chinese studies at the University of Technology Sydney, Australia. “But now do not send and does not need that kind of absolute loyalty anymore,” said Feng, adding that a simple majority is sufficient. “If there are any negative votes, then that’s a certain level of democracy that can show the world.”