Leadership jostle gives think-tank shot in arm
A HIGH-LEVEL think-tank made up mainly of liberal scholars associated with former Communist Party general secretary Zhao Ziyang has apparently switched into high gear and expanded its operations as different factions of the Communist Party jostle for position in preparation for the death of patriarch Deng Xiaoping.
The think-tank, China (Hainan) Reform and Development Institute, which is based in the southern tropical island often known for its no-holds-barred reform initiatives, has the backing of former president Yang Shangkun, according to a report from the official China News Service yesterday.
The disclosure of Mr Yang's support is significant, as the former president has adopted an unusually low profile over the past year and has rarely appeared in the national media.
Mr Yang, widely regarded as an influential power-broker in the event of Mr Deng's death, was quoted in the report as saying that the institute ''has played an important role'' in policy-making by the Chinese Government.
The report also said Mr Yang, who is three years younger than Mr Deng, stayed at the institute soon after the Lunar New Year and had sung its praises.
''By meeting here [at the institute], a lot of scholars are able to offer . . . suggestions for the central leadership, and for the whole country,'' Mr Yang was quoted saying.
''This has become a good base for the reform of China's economic structure. I believe you scholars can even turn it into a centre of international academic exchange in Southeast Asia,'' he said.
Many of the institute's scholars are liberal heavyweights who once advised disgraced party boss Mr Zhao, including Gao Shangquan, Chi Fulin, Wu Jinglian, Zhang Zhuoyuan, Zhou Shulian, Tong Dalin and Wang Yu.
Even government officials and former cadres such as Hainan Governor Ruan Chongwu, former head of China Securities Regulatory Commission Liu Hongru, State Councillor Li Tieying and State Planning Minister Chen Jinhua are ''frequent guests'' of the institute, the report said.
The agency added that the institute was soon to expand. It plans to build a large conference hall in Sanya city on Hanain island, a training centre in the western district of Beijing and convert the institute's monthly journal into a weekly magazine.
Observers said the institute, which has adopted a low profile since its establishment about two years ago, was possibly the largest and most resourceful think-tank in China.
They said the fact that Mr Yang had established contact with the institute's scholars was significant in that they were associated with Mr Zhao, still widely regarded as the spiritual leader of the liberal wing of the Communist Party.