The Power Shift
PUBLISHED : Thursday, 08 November, 2012, 8:17pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 29 August, 2013, 4:13am

China's Grand Old Men step into limelight


After obtaining a Master's degree in Journalism from Carleton University in Canada, Keith started his journalism career in 2006 as an editorial assistant for local media in Ottawa, and covered the Canadian Federal Election that year. He returned to China to report on the Sichuan earthquake and the Beijing Olympics in 2008. He joined the Post’s Beijing bureau in 2012. Keith finds it a challenge and a thrill to dig useful information from the subtle insinuations and muted reports in largely censored mainland Chinese media, and turning them into exclusive and insightful stories through hard reporting.

The first row of the presidium is a rare showcase of the Grand Old Men of Chinese politics.

Here, at the Great Hall of the People, all retired party leaders – except the 96-year-old Wan Li and the 88-year-old Qiao Shi – and previous standing committee members were on stage. Some of them even appeared younger and better-looking than the incumbent leaders.

Zeng Qinghong, once vice-president and a famous king-maker, was looking as feisty as ever with his bright red tie, which contrasted perfectly with his shiny dark hair. Zeng is 73.

With the amount of vigour he was oozing as he sat at centre stage today, God only knows why he chose to step down from the standing committee five years ago. He appeared much healthier than Wu Bangguo, the current top legislature and No 2 in the standing committee, who is two years younger but gives off a sickly impression.

But it was octogenarian Jiang Zemin who outshone everybody on the opening day of the Communist Party’s most important gathering in a decade.

The 86-year-old former party chief, who was rumoured to be near death last year, was mingling on the stage with his former friends and foes, apparently already in a good mood even before hearing his successor, Hu Jintao, mention him a number of times in the 90-minute speech.

The grand old man even made the effort to courteously give way to Deng Pufang, the late leader Deng Xiaoping’s disabled son who was sitting in a wheelchair, after the speech.

In contrast, not many of the incoming leaders have shown much of character: neither Xi Jinping, who is replacing Hu as party chief in a couple of days, nor Li Keqiang, the country’s next premier, appeared very social. Xi was even looking a bit nonchalant with his purple tie slightly askew.


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