Hu with Obama
The 17th Party Congress was held in mid October 2007. As expected Hu Jintao reshuffled the Chinese leadership, promoted rising stars and hinted at possible successors. A number of high level officials were replaced going into the meeting.

Hu Jintao was shown chatting with Jiang Zemin to give the appearance of party unity. Rumors about what was going on behind scenes were flying especially fast and furiously. Among the noteworthy events were the high number of princelings, including Xi Jinping (See Separate Article), that rose to positions of significant power.

The Congress was seen as a test of Hu’s political skills and seen as a forum to define teh direction he would take during his second five year term.The Congress endorsed his second term as president and reappointed him to his other leadership positions and gave him more authority to carry out his agenda.

In his speech at the Congress Hu admitted there was social disparity and promised to bring balanced growth and more priority to the have nots. He also pledged to have “more extensive democratic rights” by 2020 and but failed tp give any specifics; promised to tackle environmental issues; offered to talk with Taiwan; and talked of the advances China made under his leadership. The speech was delivered ib front of more than 2,200 delegates in the Great Hall of People, was broadcast live on television and lasted two ours and 20 minutes. He used the word “democracy 61 times.”

The nine Standing Committee members after the congress were: 1) President Hu Jintao, 64; 2)Parliament Chief Wu Bangguo, 65; 3) Prime Minister Wen Jibao, 65; 4) Top Advisor to the Parliament Jia Qinglin, 67; 5) Publicity Chief Li Changchun, 63;6) Shanghai Party Boss Xi Jinping, 54; 7) Liaoning Party Boss Li Keqiang, 52; 8) Head of Party Organization He Guoqiang, 64; and 9) Public Security Minister Zhou Yongkang, 64.

Xi Jinping, Li Keqiang, He Guoqiang, and Zhou Yongkang are all new members to the Standing Committee. Parliament Chief Wu Bangguo is regarded as the No. 2 man behind Hu because he is the No. 2 man in the party; Prime Minister Wen Jibao is regarded as No. 3. In addition to the nine members of the Standing Committee 16 others were name to the Politburo

Chinese Vice President Zeng Qinghong, a close ally of Jiang Zemin and regarded as a rival of Hu Jintao, gave up his seats on the Central Committee and Politburo. Other leaders associated with Jiang Zemin were given a reduced role but others kept their positions in the Standing Committee and Politburo. No doubt they kept their positions by acknowledging their support of Hu.

China Grows Strong

Wei Yangli, China's
first man in space
Some have asserted that China’s rise debunks the 1989 thesis of Francis Fukuyama that the fall of the Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc was “The End of History.” Some have gone as far as to say that China’s rise is ushering in a New Age of Authoritarianism in which Chinese authoritarianism will offer a model that developing countries will chose instead of liberal democracy.

China celebrated the 60th anniversary of its founding with great fanfare in October 2009. The largest military parade in more than a decade showed off weapons such as the upgraded nuclear-tipped DF-31 missiles capable of reaching the United States and domestically-produced J-10 jet fighters. More than 100,000 marched in the parade before Hu Jintao and other Chinese leaders dressed in Mao suits. Almost as notable as the celebration itself were the security measures that were taken. Foreign tourists were barred from Tibet, blocks on sensitive websites increased. Even kite flying was banned as a precaution against areal attacks.

National People’s Congress in March 2011 and a New Five-Year Plan

A major meeting of the National People’s Congress, China’s quasi-legislature, was held in Beijing in March 2011 The nearly 3,000 party members that attended congress approved a Five-Year Plan after 10 days of meetings. The Congress was held as President Hu Jintao and other party leaders prepare to hand over power next year to a younger generation. They are trying to ensure a smooth transition while leaders maneuver furiously in private to secure top posts for younger allies. The official China News Service said Beijing had mobil ized 739,000 police officers, officials, security guards and volunteers to maintain security during the event.

A Five-Year Plan to run through the end of 2015—officially called the Five-Year Blueprint on Economic and Social Development for 2011 to 2015" was presented at the National People’s Congress in March 2011. AP reported, it “calls for a shift from rapid economic growth to higher quality, more sustainable development with a greater emphasis on services and broader distribution of wealth...It aims to boost household income and put private enterprises on a more even playing field, and includes commitments to increase social spending... If carried out, the plan could drive a far-reaching transformation of the world's second-largest economy from low-cost factory into a major consumer market. [Source: AP, March 14, 2011]

“The Five Year Plan” the 12th since the Communist Party came to power in 1949—is a throwback to central planning but a useful roadmap of Communist Party goals. Overall the 2011 plan outlines a strategy to shift an economy that is heavily dependent on state investment and exports to a more sustainable position, fuelled by consumption. It promises more rural health care spending and job help for out-of-work farmers—one of the ideas being that expanding access to health care would free up money for consumer spending, helping to push ahead the consumption drive. In the countryside, home to some 800 million Chinese, the plan promises more spending to modernize agriculture and increase grain output—a key concern for Beijing, which sees food security as a priority. [Ibid]

The new plan was the centerpiece of an annual report on the government’s work that Prime Minister Wen Jiabao presented to the National People’s Congress. He said, “We are keenly aware that we still have a serious problem in that our development is not yet well-balanced, coordinated or sustainable,” the report said. Among the shortcomings it cited were a widening gap between the rich and poor, an “irrational industrial structure,” sharply rising land and housing prices, and illegal seizures of people’s land and the demolition of their homes by state-backed developers.”

According to the Five-Year Plan government will boost spending 12.5 percent this year, with bigger outlays for education, job creation, low-income housing, health care and pensions and other social insurance. "They seem more serious about these issues than they have been previously, but it doesn't guarantee that any of this will get done," Alistair Thornton, China analyst at IHS Global Insight, told AP. "There's a growing consensus that this time it has to be different. There's more emphasis in this plan than the last one, specifically on income growth.... [But] they need a bigger shake-up to get the results that the rhetoric suggests they want. What we were optimistically looking out for  although we recogn ized it was unlikely  would have been an actual target on income growth or consumption growth. They did say they were targeting a rise in consumption, which has been declining as a share of GDP." [Source: AP]

The plan calls for spending on police, courts, prosecutors and other domestic security to rise 13.8 percent to $95 billion, exceeding the military budget. According to Willy Lam of the Jamestown Foundation, “China’s previous five-year plans were generally focused on the economy and little else” but this one—had a lot to say about the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) new imperative of imposing tighter control over the populace.... The Blueprint contained lengthy sections on buttressing public security, tackling "mass incidents," as well as implementing "social management" (shehui guanli), which are code words for boosting socio-political stability. [Source: Willy Lam, Jamestown Foundation, China Brief, March 25, 2011]

Economic Targets of the 2011-2015 Five-Year Plan

The Five-Year Plan, according to AP ‘sets the usual economic growth target of around 8 percent this year, but reduces the figure for the five-year period to 7 percent annually, down slightly from last year. Most local governments have set far higher rates, suggesting that as usual growth will come in well ahead of the headline figure. The government also pledged a war on inflation, officially pegged at 4.9 percent in January but believed by experts to be considerably higher.” [Source: AP]

Michael Wines wrote in the New York Times, “In the next five years, raising standards of living appears to be perhaps the government’s main priority. The government pledged to keep prices “basically stable” through 2015, limiting inflation to 4 percent this year, and to raise household income by an annual average of 7 percent, roughly in line with economic growth. That would break from the past 20 years, in which the growth of ordinary workers’ income has regularly lagged behind the growth in gross domestic product, and consumer spending as a share of the economy has dropped to a record low.” [Source: Michael Wines, New York Times, March 4, 2011]

“The report called expanding domestic demand “a long-term strategic principle” and pledged to increase subsidies to low-income households, extend broadband Internet to rural areas and smaller cities, and expand retail sectors like chain stores and online commerce. Retail sales of consumer goods should grow 16 percent in 2011 alone, it stated.” [Ibid]

Energy, Science Pollution and the 2011-2015 Five-Year Plan

The new Five-Year Plan also set ambitious goals to rein in pollution and energy use, and build advanced-science industries in fields like biotechnology and environmental protection. Michael Wines wrote in the New York Times, “The report claimed impressive gains on other important fronts that are at the head of plans for the next five years, including a 19.1 percent cut in the amount of energy used per unit of economic growth, a rapidly expanding service economy and a boom in the high-technology sector. The government opened a national nanotechnology research center and is building 50 engineering centers, 32 national engineering laboratories and 56 other labs focusing on technologies like digital television and high-speed Internet, the report said. Software sales, integrated circuit production and other advanced products like microcomputers all logged double-digit increases last year.” [Source: Michael Wines, New York Times, March 4, 2011]

“Environmental protection, energy conservation and technology also are allotted ambitious goals: in technology, for example, laying a million kilometers, or 621,000 miles, of new fiber optic cable; and adding 35 million new broadband internet ports, to a total of 223 million; and drafting a plan to support emerging high-technology industries. The government also promised to build “well-equipped statistical and monitoring systems” to gauge greenhouse gas emissions, accelerate construction of sewage treatment plants, retrofit coal-fired power plants with pollution controls and continue a pilot program to develop low-carbon cities.”

“The annual report, like those before it, offered a sheaf of paeans to the Communist Party’s stewardship of the nation, with staggering statistics to support them. China’s international prestige “grew significantly”; its “brilliant achievements” in economics “clearly show the advantages of socialism with Chinese characteristics.” The state opened 4,986 kilometers, or 3,100 miles, or new railroads and 120,000 kilometers, or nearly 74,600 miles, of highways; completed 230,000 sports and fitness projects for rural residents; built or renovated 891 hospitals and 1,228 health clinics.

The report pledges to further reduce energy consumption per unit of G.D.P. by 16 percent, and carbon dioxide emissions per unit by 17 percent. And for the first time, the state-run Xinhua news agency reported, the government will place a cap on total energy use, limiting consumption to the equivalent of four billion tons of coal by 2015.

90th Anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party

In July 2011, the Chinese Communist Party celebrated its 90th anniversary. In a speech President Hu Jintao said China's ruling communist party must ensure economic growth and its iron grip on stability do not slacken. "Development is of paramount importance and stability is the paramount task," Mr Hu told hand-picked party members inside Beijing's cavernous Great Hall of the People, in a speech carried live on state television. "Without stability, nothing can be accomplished, and the achievements that we have made will be lost. All of the party's comrade's must take this message to heart, and they must also lead all the people to take this to heart...Only by promoting both healthy and fast economic development can we secure a strong material foundation for the great revival of the Chinese nation."

Reuters reported: “China launched a wave of propaganda in the weeks leading up to the anniversary, producing slick films and decking out Beijing with banners lauding party rule and the progress the country has made since the 1949 revolution. While premier Wen Jiabao, who is also preparing to retire, has made a habit recently of more directly calling for political reform than his more cautious comrades, the party appears in no mood to listen.” "Looking back at the progress that China has made over 90 years, we can reach one fundamental conclusion - that the key to properly managing China's affairs lies in the party," Hu said. "We have every reason to be proud of what the party and the people have achieved, but we have no reason to be complacent. We must not and will never rest on our laurels." [Source: Reuters, July 1, 2011]

“After some muted moves to give citizens stronger legal protections early in his time as president, Mr Hu has made enforcing firmer control over China's increasingly diverse and fractious society a feature of his time in power. The last few months have been marked by arrests and detentions of dissidents, human rights lawyers and long-time protesters, following calls online for Arab-style "Jasmine protests" in China.” [Ibid]

Mr Hu warned about the strains buffeting party rule as the consequences of economic transformation courses through Chinese society. "Currently China is undergoing an unprecedentedly broad social transformation. At the same time as bringing tremendous vitality to our country's development and progress, this will also inevitably bring all kinds of conflicts and problems." [Ibid]

Despite China's robust economic growth, its communist leaders worry that their rule could be eroded and eventually challenged by social unrest and elite schisms and send it the way of the Soviet Union which collapsed two decade ago. The country saw almost 90,000 "mass incidents" - riots, protests, mass petitions and other acts of unrest - in 2009, according to a 2011 study by two scholars from Nankai University in north China. Some estimates go even higher.By contrast, in 2007, China had more than 80,000 mass incidents, up from over 60,000 in 2006, according to an earlier report from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. "The whole party must see with crystal clarity that the conditions facing the world, the country and party are undergoing profound changes, and that under these new circumstances we face unprecedented new circumstances and challenges," Mr Hu said. [Ibid]

Chinese Communist Party at 90

On the Chinese Communist Party’s marking its 90th anniversary, David Shambaugh of George Washington University wrote in the New York Times, “All the hoopla cannot conceal the party’s insecure state. Central China Television (CCTV) has been airing long narrative documentaries about the party’s history; bookstores are full of red-covered histories; museums have mounted special exhibitions “including the new National Museum’s “Road to Rejuvenation.” The main theme in all these celebrations has been that the party has provided China prosperity and dignity following a “century of shame and humiliation.” The narrative of past aggression and aggrievement is pervasive, as is the affirmation that the party has rebuilt Chinese society and restored China’s rightful place in the world. [Source: David Shambaugh, New York Times June 30, 2011]

Since the autumn of 2009, following the Fourth Plenary Session of the 17th Central Committee, China and the world have witnessed a more repressive and insecure Communist Party, including a slowing of some political reforms undertaken from 1997-2009. Despite the political stagnation, three sets of reforms have continued: expanding multi-candidate elections to local level party committees; increased transparency in local budgeting and resource allocation; and efforts to improve meritocracy at all levels of the party and government. But efforts to make central policy making more transparent, to prosecute pervasive corruption, to improve “intra-party democracy” and “extra-party supervision,” and to open up the media have all stagnated.

These reforms all grew out of the party’s study of the collapse of the Soviet Union and other one-party regimes. The main lesson the Chinese Communist Party drew from these foreign examples was to be proactive, flexible and adaptive, and to manage political change from above. Stasis and dogmatism were seen as recipes for stagnation and collapse.

What we are witnessing as the party turns 90, however, is the opposite. Instead of being secure and confident, it is seemingly frozen in fear of the future, unsure about its grip over ethnic regions (Tibet, Xinjiang, and Inner Mongolia), afraid of rising social unrest and ad hoc demonstrations, worried about the macro-economy and foreign relations, and on the cusp of a major leadership transition in 2012. Moreover, a coalition of internal security forces, giant state-owned corporations, the propaganda apparatus, and the military have joined with hard-line elements in the party to pull back from reforms.

Yet there is a reformist wing in the party, led by Prime Minister Wen Jiabao, which advocates more open politics. But it does not have the resources or allies to re-ignite political reforms. The intra-party cleavage runs high and deep and party members here indicate viewpoints and factions are becoming increasingly polarized. The pending leadership transition only adds to the risk aversion and crackdown. China’s Communist Party at 90 is a bit like many 90-year-olds: increasingly infirm, fearful, experimenting with ways to prolong life, but overwhelmed by the complexities of managing it.

Future Chinese Leaders?

Willy Lam of the Jamestown Foundation wrote: Beijing's political observers are most curious about the sixth-generation team, born in the 1960s, the great majority of whose members are unfamiliar figures even to their compatriots. Some of the mystery surrounding these rising stars was lifted when a [2009] issue of the official journal Global Personalities singled out five sixth-generation politicians with colossal potentials: Governors Zhou Qiang, Hu Chunhua and Nur Bekri, respectively of Hunan province, Hebei province and the Xinjiang Autonomous Region; Agriculture Minister Sun Zhengcai; and first party secretary of the Communist Youth League (CYL) Lu Hao. Owing to factors including density of media coverage - and their prominence in the CCP's dominant faction - Zhou, 49 and Hu, 45, seem to have pulled ahead of their sixth-generation confreres in leadership sweepstakes. [Source: Willy Lam, Jamestown Foundation, Asia Times, May 23, 2009]

Apart from Lu, Zhou and Hu (no relations to President Hu) are former honchos of the league; and Nur Bekri had served in its Xinjiang branch in his younger days. It is thus obvious that President Hu, a one-time CYL boss who heads the CCP's powerful tuanpai (CYL faction), has played a pivotal role in the elevation of these 40-something neophytes. Tuanpai cadres are generally considered to be politically correct and knowledgeable about the requirements of the central authorities. [Ibid]

Fifth-generation stalwart Li Yuanchao, a politburo member who is in charge of high-level personnel matters, is a tuanpai affiliate and crony of the president. Zhang Ming, a professor at Renmin University in Beijing, said Li, who is head of the party's powerful Organisation Department, which appoints and controls personnel at every level of government and industry, may get one of the coveted positions. Considered an open-minded official, he studied briefly at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government and his tenure as party chief of the eastern province of Jiangsu was widely seen as a success.

Liu Yandong resides on the politburo as state councilor. Zeng Qinghong is a former vice president and highly-regarded political fixer.

Willy Lam wrote: ‘should Bo fail to make it, fellow princeling Yu Zhengsheng, the Party Secretary of Shanghai, is seen as having a good chance of being inducted to the PBSC. Yu, who is sometimes called the “big brother among the princelings,” is as low-profile as Bo is flamboyant. By the time the 18th Congress opens, Yu will have reached 67, the maximum age now acceptable for getting into the PBSC. While Yu’s track record as Party Secretary of Shanghai—and before this, party boss of Hebei Province—is deemed mediocre, he is acceptable to most factions within the CCP. Moreover, Yu’s status as a representative of the interests of Deng Xiaoping's family could endear him to cadres who consider themselves disciples of the "Great Architect of Reform." [Source: Willy Lam, China Brief, Jamestown Foundation, October 28, 2011]

Wang Yang, See Separate Article

Zhou Qiang

20111030-China org   zhou-qiang.jpg
Willy Lam of the Jamestown Foundation wrote: Zhou Qiang, a native of Hubei province, began his career as a specialist in youth and ideological work. He gained ministerial ranking at the tender age of 38, when he was appointed CYL first secretary. Zhou, a protege of President Hu, was transferred to Hunan province in 2006 to widen his exposure to regional issues; he became governor of the central province a year later. [Source: Willy Lam, Jamestown Foundation, Asia Times, May 23, 2009]

The Chinese media have praised Zhou for helping to lift the economy of one of China's six land-locked internal provinces. Despite the global financial crisis, Hunan's GDP grew by a stunning 10.3 percent in the first quarter of this year, which was 4 percent higher than the national average. [Ibid]

A few years ago, Zhou won the United Nation's Champion of the Earth award for motivating young men and women to show concern for the environment. [Ibid]

Hu Chunhua

The rise of Hu Chunhua, 45, also a Hubei native, has been even more meteoric. Apart from having served as CYL chief, Hu shares something important with President Hu, his key mentor: long experience in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR). Immediately on graduation from the prestigious Peking University in 1983, Hu went to Tibet and worked there on and off for nearly 20 years - rising to TAR first vice-party secretary in 2006. [Source: Willy Lam, Jamestown Foundation, Asia Times, May 23, 2009]

After serving as CYL party secretary for less than two years, he became Hebei's acting governor in 2008 and governor early this year. A fluent Tibetan speaker, Hu was credited with reviving the Tibet economy, thwarting separatist tendencies among Tibetans, as well as moving more Han Chinese into the restive region. [Ibid]

It was perhaps due to his special relationship with the president that Hu did not need to take responsibility for the tainted milk scandal that first erupted in Hebei last year. As things stand, it is highly likely that both Zhou and Hu will be inducted into the Politburo at the 18th CCP Congress. [Ibid]

There are important reasons why President Hu, 67, would want to confirm and consolidate the core of the sixth-generation leadership three years before his scheduled retirement from the post of party general secretary at the 18th Party Congress. [Ibid]

”Little Hu” Eyed for the Next Wave of Chinese Leaders

William Wan wrote in the Washington Post: “Just as Xi Jinping was named “to replace President Hu Jintao, someone in the next generation of officials will probably replace Xi 10 years from now. And leading the pack, according to some party insiders and experts, is a man widely known as “Little Hu.” The party chief of Inner Mongolia, Hu Chunhua, acquired the nickname Xiao Hu (shee-ow hoo) years ago, when it became clear that he had been singled out by Hu Jintao as a rising star and was being groomed for the higher echelons of power. In November 2012, Hu was promoted to the Politburo, making home one the youngest members of that body and him into contention for one of China’s top leadership positions in coming years. [Source: William Wan, November 17 2012]

Many experts point out that such speculation is premature, given the unpredictable power of competing factions within the party, the secretive nature of such internal decisions and the many years remaining before any selection is made. But that has not dissuaded the Chinese media. During a rare party congress meeting that was open to journalists, camera crews crowded into a small room Nov. 9 to capture footage of Little Hu chairing a relatively inconsequential session. [Ibid] When he got up suddenly, the media scrum dashed to follow him out the door, afraid it might lose its prey. The stampede stopped only when guards and officials pushed the journalists back in place. “Please, everyone, he’s just going to the bathroom!” one official shouted in exasperation. “He’ll be back, I promise.”

Even in the way he answered questions from reporters—allowing a free-for-all and often replying off the cuff—Hu distinguished himself from most party officials at the congress, who gave stiff, bland responses to questions that were often screened or scripted. His hair also set him apart—unusual for its grayness amid a sea of dyed jet-black pompadours, the tradition among China’s party officials. [Ibid]

Despite his meteoric rise, Little Hu’s trajectory is not assured. A lot will depend on how much power the elder Hu retains once he retires from the presidency in March. Some speculate that Hu Jintao will become a more forceful player in personnel decisions after his predecessor, Jiang Zemin, dies. Some say he may find himself struggling against other party elders as well as Xi, all eager to advance their proteges. When asked about the rumors surrounding his political future, Little Hu was wry, diplomatic and tight-lipped. “I’d like to express my thanks to the attention the media has paid to me, but right now I am still working in Inner Mongolia, so I will only answer questions related to Inner Mongolia.”

Little Hu’s Political Career

William Wan wrote in the Washington Post: “The two Hus are not related by blood, but they share strikingly similar backgrounds, career paths, early achievements and strong pragmatic streaks—reasons the elder Hu may have identified the younger Hu more than two decades ago and begun moving him up the ranks. “How do you describe Hu Chunhua” You look at Hu Jintao and imagine him a little younger,” said Cheng Li, a China politics expert at the Brookings Institution. “He’s an exact copy.” [Source: William Wan, November 17 2012]

Both built their careers from humble beginnings—in sharp contrast with many current officials who were born into prominent Communist families, including China’s new leader, Xi. Both were shaped by long stints in Tibet and a network of allies they cultivated while at the Communist Youth League. Like Hu Jintao, who is renowned for a photographic memory, Little Hu distinguished himself early in academics. He began college at the unusually young age of 16, becoming the first from his home town of Wufeng to be admitted to the prestigious Peking University. After graduation, he turned down a job in Beijing and chose to work in the rougher, more challenging region of Tibet. He became fluent in the Tibetan language and culture, and met and worked with Hu Jintao, who became Tibet’s party secretary in 1988. [Ibid]

As a young official, Little Hu moved through a series of important jobs, including governor of Hebei province. “He was parachuted into Hebei province, staying there only a year and a half to get his credentials and then moving on,” said Li Datong, who worked under Little Hu at the Communist Youth League during the 1980s and 1990s as an editor of its newspaper. “It’s those kinds of assignments along the way that made it obvious he was being groomed by the top level.”

Hu escaped relatively unscathed from a 2008 scandal in Hebei over contaminated milk. But he has encountered more controversy during his posting in Inner Mongolia. Ethnic tensions resulted in large demonstrations last year amid complaints that Han Chinese were reaping huge profits from environmentally damaging mining operations while much-poorer Mongolians did not benefit. [Ibid]

While the traditional government reflex is to respond to such protests by cracking down, Hu Chunhua deployed a more subtle mixture of appeasement and force. He severely tightened security, but he also visited the area of unrest and closed some coal mines at the heart of the controversy. Asked after the recent party congress meeting about this mixture of hard and soft, Hu scoffed at such characterizations. “The media tends to try to label us officials,” he said. “But we will act tough when it is needed and shift to soft when it is needed.”

Obstacles for Hu Chunhua and Zhou Qiang

Willy Lam of the Jamestown Foundation wrote: While the likes of Zhou and Hu may have impeccable credentials as the cream of the party faithful, their expertise in global business and high technology - two areas where China has to excel in order to maintain its competitiveness - clearly lag behind members of the so-called haiguipai (Returnees Faction), or officials with advanced degrees from Western universities. [Source: Willy Lam, Jamestown Foundation, Asia Times, May 23, 2009]

In terms of their upbringing, education and working experience, both Zhou and Hu have very little exposure to Western culture and institutions. It is ironic that the director of the CCP Organization Department, Li Yuanchao, has repeatedly called for the large-scale elevation of talented cadres with overseas training. Li introduced in the spring a so-called A Thousand People Program to lure highly qualified returnees to work in party and government departments. [Ibid]

We must speed up the process of attracting high-caliber returnees so as to combat the global financial crisis and to push ahead scientific development, Li said at a seminar on personnel administration. Since the mid-1990s, more than 200,000 Chinese with foreign academic degrees have returned to work in China, and a dozen-odd members of the haiguipai have attained ministerial-level positions in the central government. [Ibid]

Like most members of the CYL clique, Zhou and Hu have steered clear of the controversial issue of political reform. It is noteworthy, however, that President Hu seems to have violated the oft-cited principle of intra-party democracy - which would at least in theory allow cadres a bigger say in choosing their leaders - by letting two favorite underlings take the proverbial helicopter ride to the top. This is given the fact that a large number of CYL heavyweights have proven to be lackluster cadres who owe their rise to patronage rather than performance. [Ibid]

Examples include the party secretaries of Tibet, Xinjiang, Sichuan and Shanxi, respectively Zhang Qingli, Wang Lequan, Liu Qibao and Zhang Baoshun. Zhang and Wang have been criticized for suppressing the religious and cultural heritage of ethnic minorities within their jurisdiction. [Ibid]

Liu, together with his predecessor Du Qinglin, yet another CYL alumnus, has been faulted for the large number of shoddily constructed buildings that collapsed during the Sichuan earthquake last year. And Zhang has been widely blamed for failing to cut down on the large number of deadly accidents in the coal mines of his resource-rich province. [Ibid]

The onus is now on Zhou and Hu to prove to other cadres - and 1.3 billion Chinese - that they have what it takes to, in patriarch Deng's memorable words, “prop up the sky” at times of monumental challenges. [Ibid]

Image Sources: Chinese government, Xinhua, Wikipedia

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, The Guardian, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

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© 2008 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated December 2012

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