Wednesday, February 15, 2006

After the last post, a reader astutely notes that VP Huang Ju has not been seen in public since the January 16th CBRC National Conference. Is he sick? Or just taking an extended lunar holiday. At this point, I think both are possible. On the one hand, his absence was especially conspicuous during the annual Central Committee-State Council New Year Celebration, which is traditionally attended by all Standing Committee members who are not abroad. He was absent from that celebration. On the other hand, the CCP might have finally learned that it isn't such a great idea to have all Standing Committee members attend the same public functions. What if something happens? Moreover, he authored an article on social security and employment for the People's Daily on January 26th. Of course, it was likely written by his scretary and might have served as filler to make his absence less conspicuous. We will just have to wait and see.

What if he is really ill, such that he is unable to return to his official capacity? I think then it will be a scramble between Zhou Xiaochuan and Bo Xilai for the VP position. Both are clearly vying for the position anyway for after the 17th PC. Dai Xianglong and Wang Qishan are also dark-horse candidates. The problem with Huang's portfolio is that it involves finance and SOEs, so the position would require someone either with extensive experience in the central bureaucracy or experience governing a major metropolitan area, or ideally both types of experience. In theory, Bo Xilai and Dai Xianglong would make perfect candidates since both have both qualifications, but Dai has relatively weak factional backing. Meanwhile, Zhou is a connected princelings with support from both Jiang's camp and from Wen's mentor Zhu Rongji. Wang Qishan is cursed by the fact that he does a fairly good job running the capital, and the leadership probably does not want to rock the boat before the Olympics.

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