HANDOVER Hu hands China's military baton to Xi By Wu Zhong, China Editor
HONG KONG - The Chinese Communist Party,
undergoing a once-in-a-decade change of its top
leadership, confirmed on Thursday that Xi Jinping
will take over the top party role as general
secretary but surprised by announcing that Xi will
take over from President Hu Jintao as head of the
Central Military Commission (CMC). The appointment
of Wang Qishan as top anti-graft official also
indicates the new government's sense of
Xi was officially elected
along with other appointments to the core
Politburo Standing Committee (PSC) by the Central
Committee of the Chinese Communist Party, whose
own new membership was selected yesterday by the party's 18th National
Congress. The PSC was
reduced in membership to seven from nine.
Xi, 59, will take over the state
presidency from Hu at the National People's
Congress (NPC) next March, when he will formally
become the country's supreme leader. The other new
leaders will also take up their government posts at that
The appointment of Xi as head of the
CMC means outgoing President Hu has agreed to go
into full retirement rather than follow the path
of his predecessor, Jiang Zemin, who stayed on as
CMC chairman for couple of years after giving up
his party and state posts. After Hu passes his
state presidency to Xi at the NPC in March, he
will hold no official position.
speculated in Beijing that Hu has become tired by
the intervention in party and state affairs of
retired party elders and wants to use his own full
retirement to put an end to such practices in
China's political life. Accordingly, approving his
request for full retirement, the party has also
made a resolution to ban retired leaders from
meddling in party and state affairs. If this is
the case, then it is truly a mark of progress in
Other PSC members, with
their new posts to be confirmed by the NPC in
Li Keqiang (57) at present vice
premier, to succeed Wen Jiabao as prime minister.
Zhang Dejiang (66) at present
vice premier and Chongqing party chief, to succeed
Wu Bangguo as NPC chairman.
Yu Zhengsheng (67) at present
Shanghai party chief, to succeed Jia Qingling as
chairman of the Chinese People's Political
Consultative Conference (CPPCC).
Liu Yunshan (65), at present
party propaganda chief, to oversee party
operations and propaganda affairs.
Wang Qishan (64), at present
vice premier, is appointed as head of the CCP's Central Commission for
Disciplinary Inspection (CCDI), the party's top
Zhang Gaoli (66), at present
Tianjin party chief, to be executive vice premier.
Wang Qishan's appointment as CCDI chief
was not entirely expected. It had been speculated
that he would take the CPPCC chairmanship or
executive vice premiership.
But this is a
wise choice. Wang is known for his ability to deal
with crises. A protege of former premier Zhu
Rongji, he was regularly sent to wherever these
occurred. As such he is known as the party's
"chief fire-fighter". Appointing him to head the
CCDI is evidence that Xi takes seriously the
uphill battle the party faces against corruption.
A shrewd, no-nonsense Wang leading the anti-graft
watchdog serves as a major deterrent to corrupt
officials. Given his past record, he surely will
not let big fish slip away easily.
said, however, one individual's role should not be
exaggerated. Zhu Rongji once expressed his
determination to curb official corruption by
saying: "I'll have 100 coffins prepared.
Ninety-nine are for corrupt officials and the last
one is for myself."
But corruption was not
effectively contained during his tenure (an excuse
for Zhu could be that he mainly oversaw economic
and financial affairs). The root of corruption
lies in the Chinese system. Whether Wang can or
will design a reform of the system to set up an
effective anti-graft mechanism remains to be seen.
The appointment may also be a good move
for Wang himself, as he is a man of action rather
than talk. The CPPCC is a venue to liaise with
non-communist parties and people with leading
roles in society and is thus more like a house for
talk shows. Although the CPPCC chairmanship is a
higher-profile post than the one Wang is taking,
the CCDI has more real power. For one thing, a
CCDI clearance is a must for the promotion of a
At the same time, given
Wang's expertise in economics and finance, his
skills would also be valuable as the executive
vice premier overseeing economic and financial
affairs. The consideration behind this is perhaps
a reflection also of the desire for better
teamwork among the new leadership. If Wang were to
take the first vice premiership, Li Keqiang would
inevitably become a very weak premier. This would
not be good for Li in his second term five years
on, when Wang will have to retire.
case, Wang will still retain influence on economic
affairs, especially financial matters. Leading
financial officials such as heads of the
securities, insurance and banking regulators are
all his proteges.
The new PSC members
represent various factions. Xi Jinping and Wang
Qishan are princelings; Li Keqiang belongs to Hu's
Communist Youth League faction; Yu Zhengsheng is a
princeling and is considered a protege of Jiang
Zemin; Liu Yunshan and Zhang Gaoli are also
Jiang's proteges. Hence, Jiang's Shanghai faction
seems to have gained an upper hand in the
In face of arduous tasks ahead,
however, they are all in the same boat and will
have to work together and compromise when
differences emerge among them.
of the new PSC is that its members are better
educated than their predecessors. Both Xi and Li
hold PhDs (Xi's in law from Tsinghua University
and Li's in economics from Peking University).
This is unprecedented.
They are also
younger, all being born in the late 1940s or early
1950s. As such, they all grew up in the era of Mao
Zedong. Having suffered starvation during the
Great Leap Forward, experienced the Cultural
Revolution and worked at the grassroots level,
they know which path is better for China and will
support reform and opening up. In this sense, they
all could be said to be reform-minded, though this
does not necessarily mean that they will be in
agreement on all reform policies and measures.
All except Liu Yunshan have experience in
running a province and know the difficulties of
local government; they are also aware of the
tricks that can be played by local officials, and
will not be easily fooled.
goals It is a good sign for them that Hu
will not be staying on as CMC chairman. If Hu in
retirement indeed keeps his hands off party and
state affairs, Xi and his team may be able to
bring their own potential into full play. Even
older-generation party elders like Jiang Zemin
still want to meddle, but they will soon lose
their steam given their age.
party congress sets two targets - of doubling both
gross domestic product (GDP) and people's incomes
by 2020 compared with 2010. These are quantitative
goals. To achieve them, the new team must ensure
an annual growth of at least 7.5% for both GDP and
incomes in the next eight years. If they fail to
do so, people will become discontented with them.
And they come to power at a bad time.
While the Chinese economy may be bottoming out,
the driving force for growth remains rather weak.
Therefore, from day 1 in office, Xi and his team
will have to wrack their brains on how to
stimulate economic growth.
They have also
to clean the mess left by the Hu-Wen leadership.
As the CCP accomplished its power
transition with its 18th National Congress, the
People's Daily, the party's flagship newspaper,
published an article on its website to summarize
the contributions of previous party leaders.
"Chairman Mao led Chinese people to stand
up, Deng Xiaoping led Chinese people to become
rich, Jiang Zemin led Chinese people to grow
stronger, and Hu Jintao led the Chinese people to
take off (to the sky)," it said, quoting an
elderly chicken farmer. It immediately causes a
great uproar among Chinese netizens particularly
with the praise of Hu.
The Chinese economy
has certainly taken off in past decade under the
Hu-Wen leadership. But the country has paid a
heavy price for the economic growth miracle - the
wealth gap has widened, corruption is rife,
problems of food and drug safety abound,
eco-environmental disasters are numerous ... so
much so that various surveys show that Chinese
people nowadays feel less happy than before.
Xi and his team will have to tackle these
problems, none of which is easy to resolve. They
will have to fight an uphill battle on every
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