During the Oct. 1 holiday celebrating the founding of the People’s Republic of China—what the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) calls National Day, in a ceremonial laying of flowers at the Monument of the People’s Heroes on Tiananmen Square, CCP head Hu Jintao led the procession of the nine members of the Politburo Standing Committee in order of rank, with presumptive next head of the CCP Xi Jinping bringing up the rear. Analysts make much of the appearances of the leaders in public, and Xi’s position in the line caused much speculation.
The order presented by the Standing Committee on Oct. 1, however, was not the real power ranking within the Standing Committee. That ranking has undergone a shakeup in the wake of Wang Lijun’s flight to the U.S. Consulate in Chengdu on Feb. 6.
Wang Lijun was the deputy mayor, police chief, and henchman for Bo Xilai, the Party head of the province-level city of Chongqing in central western China. Wang’s attempt to defect opened up the black box of CCP politics to the international community. Wang’s subsequent surrender to Party central and the information he divulged has also triggered scandals from which the Party is still reeling.
Wang revealed that the faction headed by former CCP head Jiang Zemin had plotted to unseat Xi Jinping after he took power. That planned coup attempt was only the most extreme measure in a long-running power struggle between Hu and Jiang.
Jiang Zemin and his faction have for 13 years committed crimes against humanity in their persecution of the spiritual practice of Falun Gong. If they lose power, they fear being held accountable for their crimes. Thus Jiang faction has felt compelled to hold onto control of the Party at the 16th, 17th, and 18th Party Congresses.
From the point of view of Jiang’s faction, Xi was always a placeholder, someone Jiang agreed to while expecting to arrange things more to Jiang’s liking.
In fact, Xi Jinping was no one’s first choice in the beginning. In the lead up to the 17th Party Congress held in October, 2007, Hu Jintao made clear that he preferred Li Keqiang, then the Party head of Liaoning Province, as his successor. Like Hu, Li Keqiang had arisen to power in the CCP through the Communist Youth League.
Jiang Zemin and his trusted advisor Zeng Qinghong wanted to block Li Keqiang, and recommended Xi Jinping instead. Zeng had recommended Xi to Jiang, on the grounds that Xi was easygoing and not so ambitious.
Hu Jintao remembered how Xi Jinping’s father, Xi Zhongxun, had behaved when the reformist Party leader Hu Yaobang was denounced by paramount leader Deng Xiaoping. Xi Zhongxun had dared to contradict Deng Xiaoping and stand up and speak for Hu Yaobang.
And so Hu accepted the nomination of Xi Jinping, and Xi emerged as a compromise candidate of the Jiang faction and the Youth League faction.
Bo Xilai was the preferred candidate of Jiang’s faction. He was removed from consideration from appointment to the Standing Committee in a deal struck at the Congress. Former Vice Premier Wu Yi announced her “complete retirement in exchange for Bo’s transferring to Chongqing, with the understanding Bo would not become a Standing Committee member.
Blocking Bo from joining the Standing Committee at the 17th Party Congress assured that Bo would not be eligible to become Party head at the 18th Party Congress.
In other words, the selection of Xi Jiping was a tactic meant to serve the goal of eventually pushing Bo into power. When Xi visited the United States just a week or so after Wang had tried to defect, the United State disclosed to him some of what Wang had revealed during his 36 hours in the U.S. Consulate.
After the Wang Lijun-Bo Xilai scandal began to unfold, Xi Jinping, a member of the Princelings (the descendants of prominent and influential senior communist officials in CCP), moved closer to Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao for self-protection and gradually formed a new alliance system composed by Hu Jintao, Wen Jiabao, Xi Jinping, and Li Keqiang. Their alliance broke the balance of power in the CCP and gave them the upper hand over Jiang’s faction.
That dominance was visible at a meeting held in the Jingxi Hotel in Beijing in early May. Attended by 200 high-ranking CCP officials, an agreement was reached that removed power from the most powerful member of the Jiang faction.
Domestic security czar Zhou Yongkang would after the 18th Party Congress take “complete retirement” and lose the right to choose a designated successor to head the regime’s security apparatus. At the same time, the top leaders in Zhongnanhai reached a “tacit understanding” that Zhou Yongkang could appear in high profile in public to create an impression of “harmony” and “steadiness,” and to ensure a smooth transfer of power during the Party Congress.
Although Zhou Yongkang promised to this arrangement, in fact he incited protests over the Diaoyu Islands, among other tactics, in a last-ditch attempt to undo the power of Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao. His breaking of the Jingxi agreement in this way will mean his situation will be re-evaluated. Zhou Yongkang is likely to be arrested at any time.
Upon seeing the hopeless situation, other members of Jiang’s faction, the Standing Committee members Wu Bangguo, Jia Qinglin, Li Changchun, had no choice but to cooperate with Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao in maintaining the harmony and stability on the surface.
The positioning of the nine Standing Committee members on National Day was part of the effort to convey harmony and stability to the Chinese nation
In fact, the real power ranking at present and in the near future is in the sequence of Hu Jintao, Wen Jiabao, Xi Jinping, and Li Keqiang.
Read the original Chinese article.
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Editor’s Note: When Chongqing’s former top cop, Wang Lijun, fled for his life to the U.S. Consulate in Chengdu on Feb. 6, he set in motion a political storm that has not subsided. The battle behind the scenes turns on what stance officials take toward the persecution of Falun Gong. The faction with bloody hands—the officials former CCP head Jiang Zemin promoted in order to carry out the persecution—is seeking to avoid accountability for their crimes and to continue the campaign. Other officials are refusing any longer to participate in the persecution. Events present a clear choice to the officials and citizens of China, as well as people around the world: either support or oppose the persecution of Falun Gong. History will record the choice each person makes.