Tag Archives: wang yang

What we know (and what we don’t) about China’s CCP ‘third plenum’ meeting


The only certainty about the communiqué that resulted from the third plenum meeting of the ruling Chinese Communist Party (中国共产党) is that you should trust no one who claims to have sometime certain to say about its meaning. China Flag Icon

But that hasn’t stopped a phalanx of Sinologists from Beijing to London and from Shanghai to New York from trying to divine the meaning of the communiqué and what it might behold for the next decade of Chinese economy planning under its new president and ‘paramount leader’ Xi Jinping (习近平), who’s also the general secretary of the CCP’s central committee.

So far, Xi has spent much of 2013 waging an anti-corruption campaign at all levels of the CCP and Chinese government, and emphasizing a less ostentatious style of governance (‘four dishes and a soup‘).  The most optimistic forecasters, both within and outside China, predicted that Xi and the party’s central committee, a group of the top 350 CCP officials, would move forward during the third plenum with a bold policy agenda that could give some policy substance to Xi’s ‘Chinese Dream’ rhetoric.  China’s state-controlled media even encouraged this line of thinking.

Perhaps Xi would finally end China’s one-child policy!

Perhaps Xi would announce the transition to an even more robust private sector!

Perhaps Xi would announce that the value of the renminbi would be determined by the market!

Perhaps Xi would stand on his head, pardon former Chongqing part boss Bo Xilai, sing a couple of ‘Cultural Revolution’ songs from the Mao era, lift the ‘Great Firewall,’ and establish a timetable for Tibetan independence!

No such luck — at least, so far as anyone can tell, though a more precise resolution will emerge in the days ahead.  While it’s hard to find two analysts who agree on exactly what the communiqué foretells, .  Xi is consolidating his power!  Xi’s been stymied by the technocrats! It’s a triumph for the state sector! It’s a triumph for the private sector!

Here’s a brief portion of the 3,500 word communiqué (5,000 Chinese characters):

The Plenum stressed that the successful practice of reform and opening up has provided important experiences for completely deepening reform, and must be persisted in for a long time. The most important matters are persisting in the leadership of the Party, implementing the Party’s basic line, not marching the old road of closedness and fossilization, not marching the evil road of changing banners and allegiances, persisting in marching the path of Socialism with Chinese characteristics, guaranteeing the correct direction of reform and opening up throughout; persisting in liberating thoughts, seeking truth from facts, progressing with the times, seeking truth and being pragmatic, starting from reality in everything, summarizing domestic successful methods, learning from beneficial foreign experience, and daring to move theoretical and practical innovation forward; persisting in putting people first, respecting the dominant role of the people, giving rein to the pioneering spirit of the masses, closely relying on the people to promote reform, stimulating people’s comprehensive development; persisting in correctly handling the relationship between reform, development and stability, we must be bold, our pace must be steady, we must strengthen the integration of top-level design and crossing the river by feeling the stones, both stimulate overall progress and focus breakthroughs, raise the scientific nature of policymaking, broadly concentrate consensus and form joint forces for reform.

Those words might well also serve as a guide to understanding the communiqué itself — ‘crossing the river by feeling the stones,’ indeed.  I’m not sure that Sir Humphrey Appleby could have improved on the document’s maddening vagueness.  The Wall Street Journal summarized the statement as follows:

The communiqué called for fewer investment restrictions, greater rights for farmers and a more transparent system for local and national government taxing and spending—all areas where economists say China badly needs reform. But in lieu of specific plans it ambiguously emphasized the need to “encourage, support and guide” the private sector, while at the same time reaffirming “the leading role of the state-owned economy.”

In a small acknowledgment of the clamor for better protection of individual rights, the communiqué noted the need to establish an independent judiciary. But again it reaffirmed the leading role of the party, which has the power to trump China’s constitution.

Here’s an even more useful WSJ post that provides eight different takes from economists on the communiqué’s meaning.  Perhaps the most helpful analysis comes from the BBC, which published the following word cloud of the communiqué and otherwise argued that the statement represents a stay-the-course commitment to economic reform:


But vague has long been in vogue on the path of Chinese policymaking, especially economic policy.  Is it any less vague for China specialists to make vague calls for Xi to ‘deliver’?  What would that entail?  Looking back, even today, can you list with certainty the five top policy legacies will be for Hu Jintao (胡锦涛) and the Chinese leadership between 2002 and 2012?

Over the course of this week, we’ve watched US president Barack Obama apologize for the rollout and planning of one particular reform to one sector of the US economy.  Yes, health care is a relatively large sector of the economy and yes, the government is already an important player in that sector, in light of Medicaid programs for the poor, Medicare programs for the elderly, Social Security benefits for the disabled and a separate care system for veterans and those in the armed forces.  But it’s not clear if the Obama administration has any idea what will happen to the private health care insurance market over the next two months, let alone the next ten years.

Now imagine the task at hand for Xi Jinping and the Chinese government, who are expected to set a course not just for China’s health care sector, but for the entire economy, including a sizable public sector and a private sector that’s still very much linked to state power — in a country with 1.35 billion people, which is a population of about, oh, one billion more than in the United States.  It’s a country that has about 42 cities with a population equivalent to or greater than the size of Chicago. Continue reading What we know (and what we don’t) about China’s CCP ‘third plenum’ meeting

13 in ’13: Thirteen up-and-coming world politicians to watch in 2013


Earlier today, Suffragio kicked off its 2013 coverage of world politics with a look at 13 key elections to watch in 2013.

While we’ll watch as new leaders, from Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi to French president François Hollande to South Korean president Park Geun-hye begin their first full years of power, we’ll also watch for comebacks by former presidents — former Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva will make a decision about running for a third term in the 2014 Brazilian presidential election and former Chilean president Michelle Bachelet is the odds-on frontrunner to win a new term in Chile’s December 2013 election.

In addition, however, here are 13 up-and-coming politicians and other public figures who will figure prominently in the next 12 months — either because they are likely to come to power themselves in 2013 or because this year will will likely be a make-or-break year for them to achieve power beyond 2013. Continue reading 13 in ’13: Thirteen up-and-coming world politicians to watch in 2013

It’s official: China’s new Politburo Standing Committee

As predicted last week: the new Politburo Standing Committee of the Chinese Communist Party is as follows: 

  • Xi Jinping (习近平), who is expected to become the president of the People’s Republic of China, the general secretary of the Party and ‘paramount leader’, and a ‘princeling’ whose father was a Party dignitary;
  • Li Keqiang (李克强), who is expected to become premier;
  • Zhang Dejiang (张德江), a longtime hand who has served as Party secretary in Guangdong province and most recently, replaced disgraced Party figure Bo Xilai as Party secretary in Chongqing municipality — and also a ‘princeling’;
  • Yu Zhengsheng (俞正声), Party secretary in Shanghai municipality and a princeling as well;
  • Liu Yunshan (刘云山), director of the Party’s propaganda department (i.e., in charge of censorship and Internet restriction as well);
  • Wang Qishan (王岐山), a vice premier for economic, energy and financial affairs, and expected to play a major, reformist role in economic policy in Xi’s government; and
  • Zhang Gaoli (张高丽), currently the Party secretary of Tianjin municipality, and a former official in Shenzhen’s special economic zone.
 Suffragio‘s profiles of Xi and Li will come shortly, but in the meanwhile, you can read all about the five new members by clicking the links above.

The Politburo Standing Committee has been reduced from nine members to just seven.  Interestingly, the five new members (Xi and Li were already members) are relatively old — and so old that they will not be eligible for re-appointment in 2017 at the next National Congress because each will be older than the 67-year age limit for members of the committee.

Both Zhang Gaoli and Zhang Dejiang, as well as Yu Zhengsheng are firmly protégés of former president Jiang Zemin (江泽民), who preceded current president Hu Jintao (胡锦涛), who is stepping down to make way for Xi.

Left out are two key Hu allies: Li Yuanchao, currently director of the Party’s organization department, and Wang Yang, Party secretary in Guangdong province and perhaps the most notable advocate for political reform.

Liu Yandong, the only woman serving on the Politburo, also failed to make the cut.

As has been predicted in recent days, Xi will become the general secretary of the Party and will also immediately assume the chairmanship of the CPC Central Military Commission.

Xi is currently speaking to the press now, and his speaking style surely seems much more relaxed and expressive than Hu’s.

Fifth Generation: Who is Yu Zhengsheng?

This is the fourth in a series of posts examining the Chinese leaders expected to be named to the Politburo Standing Committee during the 18th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party (中国共产党) that kicked off November 8.  Prior installments on Zhang Gaoli here, Zhang Dejiang here and Liu Yunshan here.

Today, we continue our look at the expected members of the Party’s new Politburo Standing Committee with Yu Zhengsheng (俞正声), currently the Party secretary of Shanghai municipality — where he presided over the citywide expo in 2010 — and a Politburo member since 2002.

Yu’s elevation — if true — to the Standing Committee would seem to be a victory for the conservative elite — he’s a ‘princeling,’ a cautious economic reformer  at best, and close to former leader Deng Xiaoping and former leader Jiang Zemin (江泽民).  With the Congress likely to reduce the number of Standing Committee members from nine to seven, his inclusion would mean the exclusion of the relatively more reformist Party secretary of Guangdong province, Wang Yang (汪洋) and the leader of the Party’s organization department, Li Yuanchao (李源潮) — Wang, and especially Li, are considered protégés of the outgoing general secretary, president and ‘paramount leader,’ Hu Jintao (胡锦涛).

He served as the Party’s minister of construction from 1998 to 2001.

From 2002 to 2007, he was the Party secretary in Hubei province, a province of over 57 million people in central China, home to the Three Gorges Dam.

Cheng Li, director of research and a senior fellow at the John L. Thornton China Center, notes in his profile of Yu his ‘extraordinary family background’: Continue reading Fifth Generation: Who is Yu Zhengsheng?

Fifth Generation: Who is Zhang Dejiang?

This is the second in a series of posts examining the Chinese leaders expected to be named to the Politburo Standing Committee during the 18th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party (中国共产党) that kicked off November 8.

Yesterday, I examined the background and career of Zhang Gaoli (张高丽), the Party secretary in the municipality of Tianjin.

But another Zhang is expected to be appointed to the Politburo Standing Committee — Zhang Dejiang (张德江), a North Korean expert who’s been part of the wider 25-member Politburo since 2002 and who has served as a vice premier for energy, telecommunications and transportation.

Like the other Zhang, this Zhang is also 66, and he’s also a protégé of former president and ‘paramount leader’ Jiang Zemin (江泽民).

Earlier this year, Zhang stepped into the spotlight to take over from the disgraced Bo Xilai, who was forced to step down as the Party secretary of Chongqing municipality in March 2012 amid various scandals about corruption and a high-profile trial of his wife, Gu Kailai, who was convicted in August for murdering a British expat in August.  Late last month, Bo was expelled from the National People’s Congress, and he’s expected to be tried for charges soon as well.  It marked a remarkable downfall for Bo and the most sensational Chinese political scandal in recent memory.

Bo had attained near rock-star status as Chongqing’s leader, and his leftist ‘Chongqing model’ that featured double-digit growth along with attention to social welfare programs in the face of China’s rising inequality, as well as populist attacks on organized crime and a retro embrace of the ‘red’ culture of old-school Maoism and the songs and slogans of the Cultural Revolution, caused great discomfort among the highest echelons of the Chinese government, who determined that his anti-corruption programs were less than honest governance than the corrupt shakedowns of a leader on the verge of building his own personality cult.

Like Zhang and Xi Jinping (习近平), who is expected to become China’s new ‘paramount leader,’ Bo was a ‘princeling’ — the son of an earlier senior Party dignitary, Bo Yibo — one of China’s most powerful leaders in the 1980s and the 1990s — which makes the younger Bo’s downfall all the more remarkable.

With Zhang firmly reasserting more orthodox control over Chongqing — he denied earlier this week that a ‘Chongqing model’ even exists– he appears to have passed a key hurdle in a career that’s seen as many highlights as disappointments.

Now, it appears that Zhang will take the seat on the Politburo Standing Committee that seemed at one time virtually assured for Bo.

As noted above, Zhang’s father Zhang Zhiyi served as a major general in the People’s Liberation Army.

Zhang studied Korean in his youth and studied economics in Pyongyang in North Korea before returning to China, and his Korean expertise brought him initially to prominence when he arranged Jiang’s trip to North Korea in 1990 and, under Jiang’s patronage, rose through the ranks in Jilin province, which borders North Korea and Russia in the far northeast of China.  Zhang was appointed Party secretary of Jilin province in 1995 and served until 1998, and he was credited with successfully addressing the issue of Korean immigration — about 4.25% of Jilin’s population is ethnically Korean. Continue reading Fifth Generation: Who is Zhang Dejiang?

Fifth Generation: Who is Zhang Gaoli?

This is the first in a series of posts examining the Chinese leaders expected to be named to the Politburo Standing Committee during the 18th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party (中国共产党) that kicked off November 8.

With the apparent finalization of the seven members (reduced from nine) of the new Politburo Standing Committee, it appears that Zhang Gaoli (张高丽) has made the cut, and indeed, Zhang typifies the ‘new’ faces of the so-called ‘fifth generation’ of China’s leadership — neither incredibly new nor incredibly liberal.

Zhang, age 66, would be among the oldest of the Standing Committee’s new members and is a protégé of former president Jiang Zemin (江泽民).  Although Zhang is expected to be a strong voice for continued economic reform, he’s not exactly a liberal reformer in the style of Wang Yang, the Party secretary in Guangdong who has been relatively lax about censorship and restrictions on political speech.

What does stand out about Zhang’s record, though, is that he’s been at the forefront of China’s economic wave in three different positions in three urban hot spots on China’s eastern coast over the past 15 years — so much so that Zhang could emerge as the new executive vice premier, essentially the lead economics policymaker in China — it’s thought that he and Wang Qishan (王岐山) are in competition for the role.

Currently, Zhang currently serves as the Party secretary in Tianjin municipality — along with Beijing, Shanghai and Chongqing, Tianjin is one of four municipalities that is essentially governed like China’s other provinces.  Tianjin, just north of Beijing, has long been a key transportation hub on eastern China’s coast and, with 11.1 million people, China’s fourth largest city — to put it in perspective, Tianjin has just a handful more people than Chicago and New York combined.  As Party secretary, Zhang has been instrumental in developing Tianjin’s Binhai New Area — a new economic zone along the coast that aims to replicate the Pudong New Area in Shanghai, and by all accounts, is succeeding at breakneck speed, and has already surpassed Pudong in terms of GDP.

In many ways, his ascent parallels the ascent of China’s emergence as a global economic power, with all the positive and negative attributes that brings — admirers point to his fervor for liberalizing China’s economy, but critics decry debt-financed public-sector spending on misguided infrastructure:

All this debt-fuelled investment in trophy projects has certainly resulted in rapid headline growth rates, and clearly it has boosted Zhang’s career. But how much of it will ever generate an economic return is doubtful. The handful of analysts who have examined Tianjin’s finances in detail warn of a massive bad debt explosion in the making….  As party boss in Tianjin, Zhang has proved himself an ardent proponent of China’s investment-at-all-costs growth trajectory.

That is exactly the model economists say Beijing must now reject if it is to avoid the dreaded middle-income trap and sustain its development over the next 10 years.

Unfortunately, if Zhang does indeed succeed to the economic policy hot-seat next week, it looks as if China’s chances of a successful rebalancing away from debt-funded investment and towards growth powered by private consumption will be severely diminished.

Perhaps more fundamentally, however, Zhang made his mark as the Party secretary of Shenzhen from 1997 to 2002.  Shenzhen is a special economic zone adjacent to Hong Kong — it was essentially opened up to free-market policies by Deng Xiaoping in the 1980s and it was one of the first experiments in the great transformation of China from a Maoist communist economy one into a ‘market socialist’ economy.  Continue reading Fifth Generation: Who is Zhang Gaoli?

Unveiling the PRC’s new Politburo Standing Committee members

In advance of the 18th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party (中国共产党), set to begin November 8, the South China Morning Post printed Friday what it believes will be the list of the seven members of the most elite body in Chinese policymaking: the Party’s Politburo Standing Committee. The list has been corroborated by other news sources, and while not final, seems very likely to be the seven set to be appointed at the Congress.

The Standing Committee, expected to be reduced from nine to just seven members, is drawn from the larger (~25 members) Politburo, which itself is drawn from the ~300-member Central Committee of the Party.

If the reports are accurate, the Standing Committee will include the following members:

  • Xi Jinping (习近平), a member of the Standing Committee since 2007 and the current vice president of the People’s Republic of China, is widely expected to replace Hu Jintao as China’s ‘paramount leader,’ general secretary of the Party and, later in March 2013, as PRC president.  Xi is a ‘princeling,’ one of a group of current Chinese political leaders whose fathers were also senior Party leader during the first decades of Communist rule in China.  His father, Xi Zhongxun, was purged during the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s.  Xi previously served as the Party secretary of Zhejiang province (essentially, Shanghai’s hinterland on the south-central coast of eastern China) and then of Shanghai municipality in 2007 until becoming vice president.
  • Li Keqiang (李克强), also a Standing Committee member since 2007 and the PRC’s executive vice premier, is widely expected to replace Wen Jiabao as China’s premier in March 2013.  He served as Party secretary in Liaoning  province from 2004 to 2007.  He’s seen as a Hu protege, but will have a hard time following Wen, who remains perhaps the most charismatic and genuinely popular Party leader within the PRC today.
  • Wang Qishan (王岐山), a vice premier for economic, energy and financial affairs and a Politburo member since 2007, is seen as one of the most capable up-and-coming Chinese leaders.  Notably, he’s also seen as a proponent of further liberalization of China’s economy, additional fiscal reforms, and further foreign development and investment.  He headed the China Construction Bank in the 1990s, took over as the Party chairman of Hainan province (the tropical island at the south of the Chinese mainland) from 2002 to 2003 and served as mayor of Beijing from 2003 to 2007 before his appointment as vice premier.
  • Zhang Dejiang (张德江), a vice premier for energy, telecommunications, and transportation and a Politburo member since 2002, like Wang, is a protege of former PRC president Jiang Zemin, Hu’s predecessor, and like Xi, is also a ‘princeling.’ Zhang has a long career in Chinese politics — he was Party secretary of Jilin province (in China’s northeast, bordering North Korea and Russia) from 1995 to 1998 under Jiang, Party secretary of Zhejiang province from 1998 to 2002, Party secretary of Guangdong province (the largest province in China, and the home of Guangzhou and the Pearl River valley, where much of China’s amazing export growth has taken place in the past two decades) from 2002 to 2007, during the worst of the SARS crisis, and most recently, since March 2012, the Party secretary of Chongqing municipality following the removal of disgraced Chinese leader Bo Xilai.
  • Yu Zhengsheng (俞正声), currently the Party secretary of Shanghai municipality and a Politburo member since 2002, is also a princeling, and was very close to former leader Deng Xiaoping as well as to Jiang.  He was the PRC’s minister of construction from 1998 to 2001, Party chair of Hubei province in central China from 2002 to 2007, and thereupon became Party secretary of Shanghai.
  • Liu Yunshan (刘云山), director of the Party’s propaganda department and a Politburo member since 2002, who will likely remain in charge of propaganda and censorship.  Certainly no princeling, Liu rose up through the Party’s youth league.  His elevation to the Standing Committee marks a victory for the more conservative elements of the Party.
  • Zhang Gaoli (张高丽), currently the Party secretary of Tianjin municipality and a Politburo member since 2007, and yet another Jiang protege.  Zhang rose to prominence as the Party secretary in Shenzhen from 1997 to 2002 — Shenzhen is the special economic zone adjacent to Hong Kong that emerged as one of the PRC’s few early free-market zones, and Zhang’s experiences there make it likely that he’ll be among the Standing Committee members most likely to support further economic reform.  He thereupon became Party secretary of Shandong province, just south of Beijing on east-central coast of China, from 2002 to 2007, and was thereafter appointed to his current post in Tianjin.

If the line-up is confirmed later this month, it will mark a significantly conservative leadership with respect to most reforms, although potentially much more open to further economic reforms.  These seven Standing Committee members would be seen as much closer to Jiang than to the ‘fourth generation’ leaders, Hu and Wen. Continue reading Unveiling the PRC’s new Politburo Standing Committee members