If everything goes smoothly, you won't hear much out of China in the new week. And that's the way its new leaders want it. Even though the world's second-largest economy officially seats a new president and premier, the beginning of China's parliamentary session on Tuesday comes without the usual pomp and circumstance. Instead, China's new leaders hope to show their own version of austerity. For instance, there will be no booze at official meals.
The party leaders want a sober beginning to their terms as the hope for a more sober Chinese economy. They want to avoid any significant pronouncements that could threaten China's gentle economic upswing. The country's biggest trading partner, Europe, continues to struggle; tensions with Japan have been rising; and Chinese workers have been demanding (and in some cases, getting) pay raises. Chinese home prices have heated up again as the Beijing government moved late last year to stimulate its economy.
It came after China's economy grew at its slowest pace in 13 years. The new government knows that its political stability depends upon a steady economy. With choking air pollution, a horrendous record on food safety, and sanctioned corruption, the new slate of leaders taking their seats this week would like to reduce China's reliance on exports to fuel its expansion, reassure its trading partners it wants to play fair and stoke a steady and sustainable rise of living standards.
Since early December as the stimulus efforts began, the Shanghai Stock Exchange index has shot up. Electricity production is rising and manufacturing has rebounded too. But political volume has been muted.
Tom Hudson, a financial journalist based in Miami, is the former co-anchor and managing editor of Nightly Business Report on public television.