Bo Xilai

Princelings make their political comeback

PUBLISHED : Friday, 15 November, 2002, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 15 November, 2002, 12:00am


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Sons of China's top leaders - the princelings - performed unexpectedly well in the election for the Central Committee of the Communist Party announced yesterday, some holding their posts and others winning back positions lost five years ago.

Top of the list is Zeng Qinghong, 63, the right-hand man of President Jiang Zemin, who today is expected to join the seven-member Standing Committee of the Politburo, the small group of men who will control China for the next five years.

His father, Zeng Shan, was a general in the communist army who became a member of the government and his mother was one of the few women who took part in the 1934-35 Long March.

Mr Zeng was among 198 full and 158 alternate members of the Central Committee chosen on the final day of the congress.

Other princelings elected included Deng Pufang, 58, who finished second last on the list of alternate members of the Central Committee at the last congress in 1997, but retained his place as an alternate this time.

The son of late paramount leader Deng Xiaoping, he was crippled during the Cultural Revolution when he was thrown out of a window by Red Guards.

But dubious business ventures have made Mr Deng unpopular with many members of the party, despite the high esteem in which his father is held, making his retention of a seat a surprise. Anger against the princelings and their wealth, real and imagined, is widespread and a major reason for cynicism and suspicion towards the party.

Also chosen for the Central Committee was Xi Jinping, 49, acting governor and vice-party secretary of Zhejiang province, who came last on the alternate list at the previous congress.

'This means that he could in future reach minister rank or above,' said one Chinese political scientist. 'He has benefited much from the good relations of his father and his wife, who was a famous singer. He is a stable personality, not a star.'

He is the son of Xi Zhongxun, a veteran revolutionary soldier who held senior positions in the early years of the new state, including that of vice-premier. He died earlier this year.

Born in 1953 in Shaanxi province, the younger Mr Xi joined the Communist Party in 1974 and graduated from the engineering chemistry department of Tsinghua University in 1979. After 1982, he served in Fujian province, starting as vice-mayor of Xiamen in 1982 and rising to the post of governor and party secretary, before being moved to Zhejiang as acting governor and vice-party secretary.

He appears to have escaped unscathed from the Xiamen smuggling scandal, which has seen more than 100 senior officials imprisoned for their involvement.

Also on the central committee is Bo Xilai, 53, governor of Liaoning province, the son of Bo Yibo, a veteran revolutionary and former vice-premier who also took part in the congress. Bo Xilai lost his seat at the last congress.

'Bo has a good future too,' the political scientist said. 'His father has helped to promote many officials. The younger Bo has been skilful in promoting himself as the face of young, modern China.'

After graduating from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in 1980, Mr Bo worked in the secretariat of the Central Committee, before becoming deputy party secretary of a county near Dalian, Liaoning province. He became mayor of Dalian and helped to make the city the richest in northeast China.

Other princelings on the Central Committee are Yu Zhengsheng, governor and party secretary of Hubei province and son of Yu Qiwei, former minister of the machinery industry; Wang Qishan, director of the State Council Office for Economic Restructuring and son-in-law of former vice-premier Yao Yilin; and Liao Hui, director of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office and son of Liao Chengzhi.

Also chosen were Qiao Zonghuai, Vice-Foreign Minister and son of former foreign minister Qiao Guanghua; and, as an alternate member, Chen Yuan, president of the China Development Bank and son of a revolutionary.