Jiang protege faces uphill battle

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 18 January, 2000, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 18 January, 2000, 12:00am

Guangdong party chief Li Changchun has to overcome more hurdles before he can be elevated to vice-premier.

This is despite the fact that his mentor, President Jiang Zemin, had hoped Mr Li's promotion would be confirmed by the National People's Congress meeting in March.

A party source in Beijing said yesterday Mr Jiang wanted Mr Li to handle agriculture in the State Council, or cabinet.

This would enable incumbent agriculture vice-premier Wen Jiabao to pay full attention to his other portfolios of finance and regional development.

'Jiang hopes two of his key proteges, Li Changchun and [vice-premier] Wu Bangguo, will be inducted into the Politburo Standing Committee in 2002, and that the two will run the economy after Premier Zhu Rongji retires in 2003,' the source said.

It is understood, however, that a number of cadres are opposed to Mr Li's transfer because they think Mr Jiang has already moved too many proteges to Beijing.

Moreover, Mr Zhu is not keen on Mr Li, saying the latter has yet to distinguish himself in developing the Guangdong economy.

However, Mr Jiang may still have his way given the fact that another of his proteges - head of the party's organisation department Zeng Qinghong - controls personnel appointments.

Meanwhile, Guangzhou sources thought it likely Governor Lu Ruihua would step aside to head the provincial legislature at the Guangdong People's Congress, which opens on Saturday.

The political fortunes of Mr Lu, a native Guangdong cadre, have been going downhill since his patron, former Guangdong party secretary Xie Fei, was transferred to Beijing in 1998. Xie died last year.

The Guangzhou sources said Shenzhen party secretary Zhang Gaoli was considered a likely candidate to succeed Mr Lu as governor - or even Mr Li as provincial party chief.

Rising star Mr Zhang has been praised by Mr Jiang and Mr Zhu for turning Shenzhen into the mainland's premier hi-tech centre.

Analysts said given Beijing's desire to break the back of the so-called Guangdong Faction of politicians, Mr Zhang being a native of Fujian province was an advantage.

Another candidate said to be a possible successor to Mr Lu was executive vice-governor Wang Qishan, a northerner who is close to Mr Zhu.

A dark horse for promotion in Guangdong is party vice-secretary Huang Liman, a trusted Jiang associate.