Sunday, September 19, 2004

Okay, the guessing is finally over. Old Jiang officially resigned. However, if I were Hu, I wouldn't relax just yet (I suspect he ain't relaxing either). The CMC gained four new members, the commanders of the Jinan military region, the PLA Navy, the PLA airforce, and the PLA Second Artillery (nuclear force) respectively. I don't know about Chen Bingde (commander of the Jinan MR facing Taiwan), but the promotion of the other three was planned by Jiang from before his retirement. The Wenhuibao, a newspaper run by the CCP in Hong Kong, had predicted the promotion of Qiao Qingchen, Zhang Dingfa, and Qing Zhiyuan (airforce, navy, 2nd arty) to the CMC in May this year. While this no doubt has to do with the modernization of the PLA command structure--to give the lesser branches more independence vis-a-vis the army--, Jiang was also able to gain a super-majority in the CMC through the placement of these three. But, since the CMC is now pretty full, Zeng is unlikely to gain an entrance into the CMC, although there is a chance that he will gain an entrance in a year or two.

On the Central Committee side, Tian Fengshan got axed for corruption. Well, it's a bit hard to resist when you are the minister of Land and Resources in the midst of a real-estate boom. I wouldn't touch that job with a ten-foot pool. As for the new CC members, the election of Aisihaiti Kelimubai, the vice secretary of Xinjiang, is no surprised, especially when the secretary of Xinjiang Wang Lequan is now a Politburo member. But, I have no idea how Wang Zhengwei, vice secretary of Ningxia, got promoted to the CC. Since Hu and Wen both came out of Gansu, there doesn't seem to be too much connection between Wang and the new leadership. I suspect Wang is promoted with the help of Jiang's people.

All in all, I think Hu got out of this one a slight winner, although Jiang bargained for his pound of flesh. In the long-run, I think the exclusion of Zeng Qinghong from the CMC will allow the Hu faction to consolidate power. According to the principle of the military obeying the party, Hu can over time replace Jiang cronies from the CMC, but Zeng would have been more difficult to remove. Why did Jiang let go without insisting on Zeng joining the CMC? Part of it is that his threat to not resign was increasingly losing credibility as internal criticism of him increased. It would have been hard for Jiang to stay on when even Deng himself resigned from the CMC two years after resigning from the Politburo.

However, Hu and Wen applied the pressure until the very end. Earlier this month, the China Youth Daily, a branch of the Communist Youth League, published an article about Wanyuan City in Sichuan hiring Song Zuying, reputedly Jiang's mistress, to perform there for 400,000 yuan, around 1% of the city's annual budget. Coincidence? I think not. First of all, Song Zuying has been performing all over the country and earning the blood and sweat of poor Chinese farmers for years. Local party secretaries doubtless tried to curry her favor in hopes of getting Jiang's attention and thus a quick promotion. Sure, it was wasteful to have a cultural activity wasting so much money, but this happens all the time. If it's not a concert, then it's a stadium or a square. Also, why pick on Song Zuying, if not for the fact that everyone knows her to be Jiang's mistress. And of course, the timing is impeccable. Hu got the Chinese people and senior party members all riled up about Jiang, totally delegitimizing him before the 4th plenum. Jiang knew he had to retire one way or another, and Hu and Wen apparently played pretty hardball with him, since Zeng is not in the CMC. This fight, however , is far from over.

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