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    Greater China
     Apr 4, 2007
Page 1 of 2
Grooming China's future leaders
By Wu Zhong, China Editor

HONG KONG - Shortly after the conclusion of the annual session of the National People's Congress (NPC) in mid-March, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has begun a new round of reshuffling its provincial leaders as a preparation for the convention of its 17th National Congress this autumn.

So far this year, the CCP has announced the appointment of new party secretaries for two provincial-level municipalities and four

provinces. They are the municipalities of Shanghai and Tianjin and the provinces of Shandong, Zhejiang, Shaanxi and Qinghai. With the appointment of new party chiefs, these six provinces will soon have their new party committees.

According to the reshuffle plan, all of the 31 mainland provinces will have new party committees and new party secretaries by end of June. All new provincial party secretaries will automatically become deputies to the 17th Party Congress and candidates for the new Central Committee.

By the end of last year, 14 provinces had completed the reshuffle. The remaining 17 provinces, including the above-said six, will need to complete the reshuffle in the second quarter. New party secretaries for 11 of the remaining 17 provinces have yet to be announced.

Of the six newly appointed provincial party chiefs, three are in their 50s and therefore could be regarded as the "fifth generation" cadres who may move up the official hierarchy in future. And it is almost certain that the new party secretaries of Shanghai and Tianjin, Xi Jinping and Zhang Gaoli, will become members of the new Politburo in the 17th Party Congress, following the adopted practice.

The most eye-catching is the appointment of Xi Jinping, 54, as the party secretary of Shanghai municipality, which has surprised many political watchers inside and outside the country. Before obtaining his the new job, Xi was the party chief of Zhenjiang province.

In late September, the CCP leadership removed Shanghai party chief Chen Liangyu on corruption charges and appointed Shanghai Mayor Hang Zhen, 52, as acting party secretary. But Hang was in that post only for half a year, and Xi's appointment dashed Hang's hope to sit in the new Politburo. This is a rare case in which the acting party chief was not formally appointed to the post.

Given his age, Hang used to be thought to have a bright political future. The latest decision of the CCP power center therefore has sparked speculation that Hang might also be implicated in Chen's corruption case. But analysts in Beijing say Hang could never have had a chance because the power center has always wanted someone from outside Shanghai to take the post after Chen's removal in the hope of shaking up the power base of the so-called Shanghai Clique.

Xi's new appointment came as a big surprise partly because he had never been predicted as a candidate for the job by pundits of Chinese politics. Instead, several others, particularly Liu Yandong, director of the CCP's Central Department of United Front Work and vice chairwoman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), had been short-listed.

In fact, a Shanghai deputy to the CPPCC said during the annual sessions of the NPC and CPPCC in the first half of March, "There was no sign about Xi's Shanghai appointment." Even Xi himself, after taking his new office, said he was informed of his new appointment "on very short notice".

And given the importance of Shanghai, it had been expected that President Hu Jintao would have appointed one of his so-called tuanpai, or faction of the Chinese Communist Youth League (CYL), to take over the job.

Xi has never worked as a CYL official. Instead he started his political career as a county party official in Hebei province. Just about the only thing in Xi's life that could be related to Hu is the fact that they both graduated from the privileged Tsinghua University, majoring in engineering.

In fact, Xi could be regarded as a princeling, or offspring of senior party officials. His father Xi Zhongxun was a communist veteran who was purged by Mao Zedong in the late 1950s but made his comeback after Mao's death in 1976. Xi is also well known because his wife Peng Liyuan is a popular singer.

Because of his background, Xi is widely considered a protege of Vice President Zeng Qinghong, who is regarded as leader of the princelings. Thus Xi's new appointment is seen by overseas China watchers as a victory of Zeng over Hu.

For instance, Poon Siu-tao wrote on the Chinese version of Asia Times Online: "It seems that Hu cannot yet completely dominate the reshuffle of senior officials ... It becomes increasingly obvious that Zeng Qinghong has gotten off Jiang Zemin's leash to go his own way ... and Zeng has replaced Jiang to become the most powerful challenger to the CYL faction." In Poon's view, in addition to Xi, Zhang Gaoli and the new Zhejiang provincial party chief Zhao Hongzhu are also Zeng's proteges.

Analysts in Beijing say that indeed the latest reshuffle could be seen as a result of a compromise among factions within the party. But politics is an art of compromise. And Hu now is the supreme leader instead of only heading one faction. As such, he must carefully seek a power balance rather than cater to the interests of one faction alone.

In the previous reshuffles, tuanpai officials have taken over several provinces. For example, Li Keqing is Liaoning provincial party chief. Li Yuanchao is Jiangsu provincial party secretary. Wang Yang is party secretary of Chongqing municipality. Zhou Qiang is governor of Hunan province. "It would have been rather odd had all provincial posts be taken by the CYL faction," an analyst said.

From another perspective, it could be said that Hu and Zeng have formed a cooperative partnership. As reported earlier, Zeng is now 

Continued 1 2 

China's 'fifth generation' leaders come of age (Mar 29, '07)

The emerging Hu-Wen-Zeng troika (Feb 21, '07)


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