Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Back to elite politics. A friend of mine recently had a chat with a section chief (sizhang) at the NDRC, and he heard the following comments from this section chief:

"Jiang Zemin has not retired to Shanghai as is always reported. He only spends
Chinese New Year there. The rest of the time he is in Beijing, where he supposedly calls all the shots from behind the scenes ("as a pupettier, just like Deng Xiaoping" said my informant). When I asked who on the politburo is the mouthpiece for Jiang, this guy said "who was Deng's mouthpiece after he retired? Hu Yaobang, not really and he got purged; Zhao Ziyang, definitely not; Chen Yun, no way. Jiang does not need a mouthpiece because he directly personnally controls ALL PERSONELL APPOINTMENTS at the Juzhang level and above! Thus, all high-level officials are directly beholden to him.""

This goes even too far for me. It is just not true that Jiang has been able to call all the shots on personnel decisions. Hu has clearly installed many of his minions in important positions. There was a spectacular failure recently when Jiang's faction failed to appoint Huang Qifan, currently vice secretary of Chongqing, to the head of the CBRC. There are two possibility for his comment:
A. He is lying. Because he is a member of Jiang's faction and wants foreigners to think that his declining faction is still powerful.

B. He thinks it's true. Since long-time Jiang loyalist Zeng Peiyan (now vice-premier) basically still controls the NDRC, Jiang might have a say on senior NDRC appointments. If this is true, I still don't think Jiang completely controls the process. I think Zeng comes up with a list and submits it to Jiang, who signs off on it. It is basically be an act of respect; I don't think Jiang would veto Zeng's choices in most cases, nor do I think the Organization Department would raise issues with Zeng and Jiang's choices. Nor would Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao raise issues. It's just not worth it for them. NDRC's fortune is declining anyway. So, from his perspective, it seems that Jiang is still all-powerful, but it's probably a manifestation of Zeng's loyalty more than anything.

I think usually "section chief" refers to "Chuzhang". "Sizhang" might be bureau chief or something. In Ministry of Commerce, a Sizhang is usually translated as "Director General".

Anyway, there are so many "sizhang"s in Beijing that we shouldn't take a random sizhang's casual comments too seriously. A joke in Beijing is that if you throw a stone onto the street, chances are you have hit a minister (buzhang).
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