Hu Jintao

Another star graduate of the Shanghai school

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 23 October, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 23 October, 2007, 12:00am

With the promotion of Xi Jinping to the top echelon of power, Shanghai, the mainland's commercial capital, will have its fourth leader in a little more than a year, renewing worries about instability in the wake of a massive corruption case.

The party chief of inland Hubei province , Yu Zhengsheng , is expected to take over as Shanghai party boss, meaning another outsider taking the helm, sources close to the government said. A spokeswoman for the Shanghai government said she had no information about Mr Xi's replacement.

Mr Xi served as Shanghai party secretary for seven months, the shortest period for the post since 1949.

After former Shanghai party secretary Chen Liangyu was sacked in September last year for embezzling from the city's pension fund, Shanghai Mayor Han Zheng held the post on an acting basis for six months.

Chen's removal was widely viewed as a way for president and party general secretary Hu Jintao to bring the city to heel and weaken the powerful 'Shanghai Gang' of present and former leaders. Mr Xi was a compromise candidate acceptable to both Mr Hu and others.

A 'princeling' with experience running two of the mainland's most prosperous provinces, Mr Xi maintained a low profile in Shanghai. But he can take credit for successfully hosting the Special Olympics and maintaining rapid growth despite the corruption scandal.

Mr Xi helped redeem Shanghai in the eyes of top leaders. When Mr Hu came to Shanghai for the opening of the Special Olympics early this month, he delivered the reassurance that the city should continue to take the lead in economic reforms.

'Shanghai was just a stepping stone on his way to joining the 'princelings', and local people may feel disappointed,' said a Shanghai university professor who asked not to be identified.

Mr Xi is the son of a communist revolutionary, Xi Zhongxun , who was once vice-premier.

'Shanghai was shocked by the case of Chen Liangyu and hasn't recovered fully. It could be a hard time for Shanghai,' the professor said.

There are worries the change might create bureaucratic inertia. A foreign diplomat said: 'With a new leader, officials will wait and see and wait for instructions from above.'

Shanghai residents have only a fleeting impression of Mr Xi, though his visits to several city districts created a favourable impression.

Zhao Liang , manager at a technology firm, said: 'Xi seemed very moderate. In the first several months as the city's party secretary, anyone might do similar things.'

His expected successor, Mr Yu, is said to have a flair for urban planning from serving as minister of construction from 1998 to 2001, as well as party chief of both the city of Qingdao and Hubei province.

Mr Yu's family background is colourful. He is also the son of a former leader, Yu Qiwei , (also known as Huang Jing ), who was party boss of Tianjin , and the former husband of Jiang Qing before she married Mao Zedong . His brother was a spy who defected to the United States in the mid-1980s.