Sunday, August 21, 2005

Dear Readers, I think things are about to get interesting again. When I was in Shanghai last month, someone told me that the entire Shanghai government was abuzzed with rumors that Chen Liangyu, the incumbent party secretary of Shanghai and a long-time protege of Zeng Qinghong, might be removed from power and that a "woman comrade" would replace him. When I heard the rumor, I thought it would either be Liu Yandong, the head of the United Front Department, or Shen Yaoyao, the vice head of the Central Organization. Recent reports (see below) reveal that Liu Yandong, who worked closely with Hu during his Youth League days, is the favorite candidate. This makes total sense since Liu is much more senior than Shen and is a minor princeling herself (father was a vice minister of agriculture) with extensive connections.

Moreover, as a vice-chairman of the CPPCC, she can easily transfer to the Shanghai party secretary position without a bureaucratic rank promotion. The position of Shanghai party secretary is typically held by a Politburo member, a position that is superior to the typical provincial/ministerial rank. Therefore, rotating another provincial party secretary (with the exception of those who are already in the Politburo) to Shanghai might raise protest that this would require giving the person a large promotion. However, it is much more reasonable to promote someone who is already the vice-chairman of the CPPCC, which though honorary is bureaucratically a national level position. Granted, Liu would still need to be inducted into the Politburo, but bureaucratically it would be a lateral transfer, though in reality, it would constitute a major gain in authority.

Another reason why Hu picked her is because she has a long history with Zeng Qinghong's family. Zeng Qinghong's mother, Deng Liujin, was one of few women who completed the Long March. In the 40s and 50s, Deng was put in charge of a special school for senior cadres who are off fighting. Among the students who attended the school are Chen Yi's son Chen Haosu and Liu Yandong. According to official press reports, the students at that school still visited Deng during holidays until her death in 2003. Therefore, Hu might have picked Liu precisely because she is acceptible to the Shanghai faction, at least the Zeng Qinghong side of it. If the article below is correct, Jiang probably is probably more against Liu than Zeng is. However, there is another layer of irony in this. Liu Yandong's father Liu Ruilong was a veteran revolutionary in Jiangsu and was the one who inducted Jiang Zemin's martyred uncle Jiang Shangqing into the party. Without Jiang Shangqing, Jiang Zemin's career would not have prospered.

This promotion, because it is now so widely publicized, will serve as a litmus test to the extent to which Jiang and his faction still hold power over Hu Jintao. I dare not predict the outcome of this struggle, but I am ready to say that this is perhaps more Zeng Qinghong's fight than Jiang's fight. Chen Liangyu is an old underling of Zeng Qinghong from his days as the head of the Shanghai Veteran Cadre Bureau. Chen Liangyu took over this plush position from Zeng after Zeng was promoted into the city leadership. Chen was later "adopted" by Jiang when Jiang served as Shanghai secretary and later party secretary general. Zeng will have to consider the extent to which he can still trust Liu Yandong and whether it is worth a fight with Hu Jintao over this issue.

Monday, August 22, 2005
Meeting a litmus test for Hu's grip on the reins

REUTERS in Beijing

A Communist Party meeting in October will provide a litmus test of whether President Hu Jintao has fully consolidated his power, political sources said.

Mr Hu, 62, emerged from the shadow of his predecessor, Jiang Zemin , last September when he became chairman of the party's Central Military Commission.

But Mr Jiang, 79, still wields residual influence through political allies who dominate the all-powerful nine-member Politburo Standing Committee headed by Mr Hu.

A focus of the fifth plenum of the elite 354-strong Central Committee will be whether Mr Hu, who is also party chief, has the political clout to replace one of Mr Jiang's men from a senior position with one of his own.

He was eyeing Liu Yandong , 60, vice-chairwoman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference and minister of the party's united front department, which seeks to win over non-communists, to replace Jiang ally Chen Liangyu , 58, as Shanghai party chief, said four sources with ties to different factions in the party leadership.

If promoted, Ms Liu would be the first woman to become party chief of one of China's 31 provinces and municipalities.

Ms Liu failed to land the same job last year.

"Jiang Zemin blocked Liu's rise," a source familiar with the inner workings of the party said. But another said of Mr Jiang, who rose from Shanghai party chief and lives there in retirement, said: "His influence is waning."

In one indication of this, one of Mr Jiang's sons failed to wrest control of the top job in a state-owned telecommunications company, a source said.

Mr Chen was likely to retain his seat on the party's 24-member decision-making Politburo, sources said, adding that he would be given a largely ceremonial job in Beijing.

Mr Chen's troubles started when he confronted Premier Wen Jiabao , a Hu ally, at a Politburo meeting last year over macroeconomic controls to try to cool an overheating economy.

Mr Hu has been moving key allies to ministerial-level positions as he consolidates power, but the Shanghai party chief's job would be the most senior personnel change engineered by Mr Hu since he replaced Mr Jiang as party chief in 2002 and president in 2003.

Ms Liu's ties to Mr Hu date back to her 1982-91 stint with the Communist Youth League, Mr Hu's power base and the Communist Party's "helping hand and reserve army". It boasts 71.9 million members.

In return for Ms Liu getting the Shanghai job, a key Jiang ally, Vice-President Zeng Qinghong , 66, could be named as a vice-chairman of the military commission.





You didn't refer to the carrot Zeng is (purportedly) being offered: the position on the CMC he missed out on last September when Hu ousted Jiang. So, the question is, does Zeng sacrifice a rook (Chen Liangyu) for the bigger prize of a knight (vice chair position on the CMC to go with the vice presidency)?
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