New breed of provincial leaders

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 08 July, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 08 July, 2012, 12:00am

The new line-up of provincial leaders brings a markedly different mindset to the problems facing the mainland compared to their predecessors', having come of age during the reform era and immersed themselves in liberal studies at university, according to information available and analysts.

Historically, most of the mainland's leadership have been engineers-turned-bureaucrats, trained in an education system heavily influenced by the Soviet Union.

By contrast, seven of Tianjin municipality's current 13-member standing committee have doctorates, spanning management, economy, law and culture.

The Beijing municipality finally ended its party congress last Tuesday - the last provincial-level party organ to decide its representatives for the upcoming national congress. A clearer picture is now emerging of the politicians set to govern until the 2030s. They are coming to power relatively young and armed with master's degrees and doctorates.

All 31 provincial party congresses except for Beijing's re-elected their current party chiefs. Among them, 17 hold postgraduate degrees, with 14 holding a master's degree and three holding a doctorate.

Some are expected to be promoted to the central leadership at the party's upcoming national congress, while most of the 402 newly elected members of the provincial party standing committees will likely take over regional portfolios or be promoted to ministries. Some will be groomed to take on roles as regional leaders or senior figures in the party headquarters in the coming decades.

Some analysts said the regional party congresses gave clues to the political manoeuvring behind the upcoming national congress, which will see a once-in-a-decade leadership transition.

'The regional reshuffles have shed light on the political manoeuvring for the upcoming party congress and offered glimpses into the horse-trading among factions,' said Joseph Cheng Yu-shek, a political science professor at City University.

Of the 31 provincial chiefs, seven are from the Communist Youth League, one of the main power bases of President Hu Jintao . Of the 402 regional-party standing-committee members, 148, or about 37 per cent, were in the youth league.

Cheng said the regional reshuffles saw Hu and Premier Wen Jiabao solidify their power base.

Most of the third generation, such as former president Jiang Zemin and ex-premier Li Peng , were educated in the Eastern bloc during the 1950s.

The fourth generation - Hu and Wen - received their university education before the Cultural Revolution began, when textbooks were still Soviet copies.

Many of the fifth generation, which is expected to be headed by Vice-President Xi Jinping , with Li Keqiang as premier, went to university around the time of the shift to a market economy.

While most of the fourth, and almost all of the third, generation of leaders are engineers, many of the new crop trained in economics, law, philosophy or history.

Of 402 regional party officials, 100, or about a quarter, hold a doctorate. Thirty-two have PhDs in economics, 29 in business administration, and 15 in law. The rest have PhDs related to science or liberal studies. Only 13 of the PhDs are related to engineering.

Officials with a master's degree are in the majority in the core decision-making bodies in regions, according to official information.

Steve Tsang, a professor of contemporary Chinese studies at the University of Nottingham, said that almost all top provincial positions were held by politicians who came of age during the reform era, and were thus less ideologically rooted.

Only eight of the 402 regional party officials, fewer than 2 per cent, were born in the 1940s. And 277 - or 69 per cent - were born in the 1950s; 117 - or 29 per cent - were born in the '60s.

Under the party constitution, party committees at the central and local levels hold congresses every five years.

A lower-level party committee convenes its congress before an upper one, as it must elect delegates to attend the higher-level congress.

In an unusual delay, the Beijing municipal committee closed its party congress only last Tuesday.

The party secretary is the top official, while the party standing committee is the top decision-making body in provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions.


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New breed of provincial leaders

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