Recent Shanghai Appointments Signal Restructuring of Chinese Party Officials
Recent Shanghai Appointments Signal Restructuring of Chinese Party Officials

On March 24, the Chinese Communist Party's (CCP) official media announced that Xi Jinping, the former secretary of the Zhejiang Provincial Party Committee, had been appointed as secretary of the Shanghai Municipal Party Committee, replacing the acting Secretary Han Zheng, who was also the Mayor of Shanghai. The new announcement did not say whether Han could continue as mayor. In another decision by the CCP, the Vice Secretary of Shanghai Wang Anshun has become vice secretary of Beijing Municipal Party Committee. Analysts think these new appointments indicate that the 17th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party has stepped into a new phase of selecting and appointing personnel.

On Sept. 25, 2006 the central committee of the CCP announced the dismissal of former Shanghai Party Secretary Chen Liangyu, and since then, the new appointment of the Shanghai party secretary has drawn extensive attention.

According to the CCP’s political structure, the Shanghai party secretary is also a member of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the CCP. The prevalent opinion is that these personnel changes were made in preparation for the 17th National Congress.

The 17th National Congress will be held in the second half of this year. In late 2006, the personnel changes had taken place in 14 provincial party committees in China. This new appointment of the Shanghai party secretary is regarded as the beginning of the personnel changes in 17 provincial party committees slated for this year. Important appointments are also expected to take place in the cities of Beijing and Tianjin, Guangdong Province and other regions.

Xi Jinping’s appointment has broken a 20-year record that the post of Shanghai party secretary had been directly promoted from Shanghai municipal leaders, such as Jiang Zemin, Zhu Rongji, Wu Bangguo, Huang Ju, and Chen Liangyu were all appointed as this position from being mayor or vice secretary. Han Zheng, despite not being involved in Shanghai’s social security fund scandal [1], is known to have strong ties with the Shanghai Gang [2].

The South China Morning Post, Hong Kong’s leading English newspaper, said that the appointment of Xi Jinping is a signal that the central committee of the CCP intended to address the case of the social security fund scandal. Han Zheng’s dispatch demonstrated that the Beijing authorities had taken the opportunity to dismantle the hierarchy of the long-standing local partisan forces for the Shanghai party secretary candidates.

Reuters quoted insiders saying that Hu Jintao’s close ally, Anhui Provincial Party Secretary Guo Jinlong, is expected to become Shanghai’s mayor, while Han Zheng’s future position is still unknown.

Notes:

[1] Chen Liangyu was accused of involvement in the misappropriation of 3.45 billion yuan (US$ 446 million) from Shanghai’s social security fund, and was fired in Sept., 2006. Chen and other top Shanghai officials and local businessmen face possible criminal charges in the scandal, though no charges have been filed to date.

[2] The Shanghai Gang is a collective label for the officials and politburo members headed by Jiang Zemin, which dominated China's political power scene for more than a decade until Jiang began to fade from active political life in late 2002.

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