July 11, 2012
Jayadeva Ranade has written an interesting piece for DNA (July 10, 2012) on the political positioning leading up to Beijing’s October showdown:
Barely three months before the 18th Party Congress convenes in Beijing late this October, the positioning of Party cadres in key slots is visibly entering the final stages. This is apart from the efforts of top leaders, including retired yet influential veteran cadres, to ensure the induction of their protégés into the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) Central Committee (CC)’s Politburo (PB) or Politburo Standing Committee (PBSC).
The meeting likely to be held around mid-July at the seaside resort of Beidaihe will be decisive in the finalization of candidates for the PB and PBSC, the CCP’s two highest echelon bodies. Agreement will also be reached on whether membership of the PBSC will be retained at nine or, as claimed by Hong Kong’s ‘South China Morning Post’, be reduced to seven members as suggested in a recent questionnaire surveying the views of 371 members of the CCP Central Committee.
Meanwhile, the elections completed by provincial congresses early last week for the positions of provincial Party Secretaries and members of Provincial Party Standing Committees, reveal the extent of influence exercised by the competing leadership groups. They also suggest the possible contours of the policies that will be followed by the new generation of leaders who will assume charge after the Party Congress this October.
By last week all 31 provincial party congresses had completed their elections and all but one had re-elected the incumbent Party Secretaries. In the case of the major municipalities and provinces like Tianjin, Shanghai, Guangdong, Chongqing, Hebei and Xinjiang, this leaves open the possibility of their elevation to the PB or PBSC. Of the re-elected provincial Party Secretaries, seven are from the Communist Youth League (CYL), assessed as Hu Jintao’s power base.
[Note: The Communist Youth League of China (CYL) is a group of youths between the ages of fourteen and twenty-eight, run by Communist Party of China. The league is organized on the party pattern. Its leader is its First Secretary and is also member of the party's Central Committee. The CYL is responsible for guiding the activities of the Young Pioneers (for children below the age of fourteen). 2007 estimates put the number of Youth League members at 73 million. Founded in 1922, the organization was first called the Socialist Youth League of China.]
Beijing was the solitary and significant exception. Its congress elected 65-year old Guo Jinlong, Mayor of Beijing and a close associate of President Hu Jintao, as the new Communist Party Secretary. Guo Jinlong worked for four years, till 2000, with Hu Jintao in the Tibet Autonomous Region. His election to the influential and powerful post of Beijing Party Secretary strongly hints at the possibility of Guo Jinlong’s elevation to the PB.
Virtually all Party Secretaries of Beijing, since the time Peng Zhen occupied the position from 1948-1966, have been full or alternate PB members. Alternately, this could be a stopgap appointment, which Xi Jinping could change next year.
The congresses also elected 402 new Provincial Party Standing Committee members. 148 of those newly elected, or 37%, were in the CYL and many among them will be selected for provincial or central ministerial appointments. Others will be groomed for senior positions in the central Party apparatus. The election of younger and better-educated cadres will shape future policies. The majority have higher degrees in Economics, Business Administration and Law.
The majority of those newly elected also belong to the same generation as China’s probable next President and Premier, namely Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang respectively. Only eight of the 402 regional party officials, or fewer than 2%, were born in the 1940s. 277, or 69%, were born in the 1950s and 29% or 117 were born in the 1960s. The process of selecting the sixth and seventh generation of cadres has undoubtedly begun.
A pall hanging over the upcoming Party Congress is the decision on the fate of former Politburo member, Bo Xilai. Following his suspension from the Party in mid-April, no charges have yet been formally brought against him despite rumors that criminal charges could be framed. Reports nonetheless indicate that teams of the Central Discipline Inspection Commission (CDIC) are carrying out investigations in the jurisdictions of the 13th and 14th Group Armies and that Party cadres and senior military officers known to be close to Bo Xilai are being investigated. Meanwhile, Bo Xilai’s supporters continue to be sporadically active.
A few minor protests occurred in Chongqing after Bo Xilai’s ouster. In May 2012, the Japanese magazine ‘Yukan Fuji’ published an interview purported to have been given by Bo Xilai, portraying him as confident of his return. This report was later established as false, but suspicion remains that it was engineered by Bo Xilai’s supporters. On June 29, the New York-based Bloomberg financial news service published a report estimating the wealth of Xi Jinping’s family at approximately $376 million, which was promptly blocked in China. A possibility exists that the investigating journalists were unwittingly ‘guided’ by neo-Maoist elements or Bo Xilai’s supporters. Most recently, on Bo Xilai’s birthday on July 3, anonymous slogans praising him appeared on some walls in Chongqing.
Neo-Maoist forces remain a sizeable force in China. The seriousness of the charges against Bo Xilai and when they are framed will also indicate the extent of the present CCP leadership’s strength.
Jayadeva Ranade is a former additional secretary in the Cabinet Secretariat, Government of India.