A meet-up on Friday between Zhou Yongkang and the Indonesian foreign minister has China asking whether the powerful Zhou is in or out, as the crisis gripping the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) continues to unfold
Zhou was conspicuously absent on Thursday from a television report about a high-level meeting in Shanghai.
The March 22 segment of Today’s News on China’s Central Television, mentioned that Zhou attended the propaganda meeting, but the classic shots of him walking to his seat, or sitting by a cup of tea, were missing. This was a large omission considering he is one of nine members on the all-powerful Standing Committee of the Chinese regime and the head of the Party organ that controls nearly all aspects of law enforcement—the Political and Legal Affairs Committee (PLAC).
The TV report seemed to substantiate rumors that took off on the evening of March 21 that he had been placed under house arrest by Party chief Hu Jintao.
However, the following day, March 23, on the same TV program, Zhou was seen meeting with Marty M. Natalegawa, the Indonesian minister of foreign affairs, in Beijing.
Amid news of Zhou being under house arrest, what are the implications of these scenes of him undertaking political duties? Both the decision to keep Zhou out of public view on March 22 and to show him in public on March 23 may have been scripted by Hu and Wen Jiabao.
Who are the major players engaged in the current infighting among the upper echelon of the Chinese Communist Party?
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The news about Zhou being under house arrest was probably spread to overseas media by Hu and Wen.
The news seemed to confirm rumors of Zhou losing his seat after Bo Xilai’s arrest. Bo, Zhou’s handpicked successor, fell hard after a dramatic defection attempt by his underling Wang Lijun on Feb. 6. Bo was sacked as Chongqing’s Party Secretary and placed under house arrest on March 15.
Since then, the pressure has been climbing to the highest levels of the Chinese Communist Party.
Bo Xilai, the former Party chief in the province-level city of Chongqing, and Zhou Yongkang have been core members of the Party faction led by former Party head Jiang Zemin. Jiang has contested with the current Party chief Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao for authority ever since they assumed office ten years ago.
The basis of Zhou’s power is the PLAC, and throughout China are cadres who belong to the PLAC and are loyal to Zhou and Jiang’s faction. Hu and Wen may have released the news of Zhou’s arrest to ferret out more information, looking to see how various functionaries would react.
They may have also hoped Zhou’s former followers might act against him to protect themselves in the forthcoming political storm.
New Tang Dynasty TV’s commentator Wen Zhao believes Hu and Wen wanted Zhou shown meeting the foreign minister.
Click this tag to read The Epoch Times’ collection of articles on the Chinese Regime in Crisis. Intra-CCP politics are a challenge to make sense of, even for veteran China watchers. Here we attempt to provide readers with the necessary context to understand the situation.
Regarding a previous media report that Zhou Yongkang was “already under some degree of control,” Wen Zhao said, “If they made a drastic, sudden move to openly announce the arrest, it would be like saying that the CCP has collapsed and there’s an obvious split among the top leaders.
“This would be a huge blow to the system. I believe they don’t dare to do it now. Zhou’s making appearance is a sign that the top leaders don’t want people to have the impression that the infighting had already led to a coup,” Wen Zhao said.
Allowing a public appearance by Zhou may also keep Jiang and his faction quiet—for now, even as big changes involving Zhou are said to be taking place behind the scenes.
An internet posting that has been widely circulated on China’s microblog, Weibo, said that the PLAC will no longer control the armed police, and any order for the armed police must be passed down directly by Hu and Wen.
If this is confirmed, it means that Hu and Wen have taken control of the armed police away from Zhou. This is in line with an earlier statement by Hu, who suggested that in order for China to have stability, the army needs to be involved. That remark implied that power and authority need to be taken from Zhou.
Also, from March 26 through April 2, Hu will travel abroad. The new policy regarding the armed police may be meant to ensure the political situation will not undergo any big changes while he is away.
Since the CCP took over China, its power struggles have always been fierce battles between officials. Zhou was Bo Xilai’s staunch ally, and the purging of Bo puts Zhou next in line for a possible purge. Hu and Wen seem determined to defeat Jiang’s faction and whether Zhou makes a public appearance is not important to the overall situation.