Wen Jiabao

Speculation rife as Wen visit misses usual business aspects

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 17 May, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 17 May, 2007, 12:00am


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When it comes to Communist Party etiquette, what a top party official chooses not to do is as telling as what he chooses to do.

During his three-day inspection tour to Shanghai - according to state media - Premier Wen Jiabao talked with university students and residents instead of municipal officials. The city is going to hold its municipal party congress in a week, with some key reshuffles expected.

Media speculation is rife that two of the four current deputy party chiefs will have to go because of a new party personnel policy that aims to streamline leadership structure.

Mao Shoulong, public policy professor at Renmin University, said it was a common practice of the Party to downplay what was really going on, especially during a politically sensitive period.

'Ambiguity is always their favourite tactic,' he said. 'The more ambiguous they're getting, the more likely things are going to happen.'

After addressing the opening of the African Development Bank meeting, Mr Wen visited Tongji University, which is celebrating its centenary, three community clinics and service centres, a few communications and medical facility companies, and the 2010 World Expo site.

As Mr Wen is a Politburo Standing Committee member whose portfolio includes economics and finance, a more business-as-usual tour of the financial hub would have been expected and probably included trips to multi-national corporations and the Shanghai stock exchange.

Hu Xingdou , a Beijing-based political scientist, said that ahead of 17th Communist Party Congress this autumn, officials had started to demonstrate their personal political strength to rally support.

Vice-President Zeng Qinghong visited to several party training schools in Shanghai, Jiangxi and Shaanxi this week, to show he is keeping a tight grip on party personnel arrangements.

Mr Wen was likely to persist with his grass roots style of politics, Professor Hu said.