Bloomberg News

Xi Seen Focused on China-U.S. Ties as Mao’s Society Gone: Voices

November 07, 2012

As China’s leaders gather for a once- a-decade leadership change in Beijing likely to elevate Xi Jinping to general secretary of the Communist Party, Bloomberg Television interviews analysts and people who have met the key figures.

William Rhodes, chief executive officer of William R. Rhodes Global Advisors LLC and former Citigroup Inc. senior vice chairman: “I found Xi Jinping to be more open and more interested in what was going in the rest of the world” compared to President Hu Jintao.

“I was very impressed with his interest in the economy, financial affairs. He was looking for investment and he felt that the most important relationship in the whole world, as I do, is the U.S.-China relationship.”

China’s new leaders are “going to push harder on growing the domestic economy against reliance on exports. I think they’ll also open the financial system more.”

Rhodes said he met Xi first in May 2006 when Xi led a delegation to the U.S. They had tea for almost two hours.

Sidney Rittenberg Sr., Mao Zedong’s former translator:

“I think this will be a pro-reform leading team. How much they are able to reform is something that we don’t know yet. There is hope I think that he is able to build a consensus for reform.”

On the influence of elders, particularly Jiang Zemin, on the leadership handover: “I don’t think a great deal, I really don’t. Obviously they are highly respected and they are listened to but I don’t think that they have any sort of power.”

On whether Mao would like today’s China: “I don’t think he would like it. He would like that China’s a great power but he would not like the kind of society. They’ve kind of lost their soul.”

Nicholas Lardy, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington and author of “Sustaining China’s Economic Growth After the Global Financial Crisis.”

On what China should do: “Financial reform would be near the top of the list. Moving to liberalize interest rates more fully. Allowing market forces to play a complete role in determining the exchange rate. They’ve moved in that direction but they are not there all the way.”

Other suggestions include “getting rid of the price subsidies that still benefit the manufacturing sector at the expense of services. Maybe some reforms on the controls on where people can live. Liberalizing labor markets.”

“All of those things would help to rebalance the sources of economic growth away from investment towards consumption, and that’s what they really must do if they want to sustain a reasonable pace of economic growth.”

To contact the reporters on this story: Stephen Engle in Beijing at sengle1@bloomberg.net; Susan Li in Hong Kong at sli31@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Stephanie Phang at sphang@bloomberg.net


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