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Xi Jinping

China's drive to reduce influence of former leaders will lead to better governance

It has been 35 years since the late leader Deng Xiaoping made a paramount speech on ending the meddling of retired senior officials in current affairs

PUBLISHED : Monday, 17 August, 2015, 1:41am
UPDATED : Monday, 17 August, 2015, 1:41am

Tomorrow is the 35th anniversary of a speech by late paramount leader Deng Xiaoping that resonates in the mainland's ruling circles. He talked about ending the lifelong influence of senior officials, even after they hand over their duties to younger leaders, and said the role of a lifetime leader belonged to the imperial era.

The speech to a Politburo meeting resonates because last week a signed commentary in the People's Daily criticised retired officials who caused rifts within the party by trying to cling to power, exerting influence through former subordinates.

A day later an article on the overseas website of the People's Daily recalled Deng's speech, and how he and arch-rival Chen Yun worked together to establish a retirement system for party elders.

Ironically, after Deng and other leaders retired to make way for younger officials, they too continued to wield influence. The two articles appeared while serving and retired state leaders gathered at the resort of Beidaihe , in Hebei province.

In the past, informal meetings at the resort have often helped set the tone for official government policies for the coming year.

Some observers see publication of the two articles at such a time as a political message aimed at former president Jiang Zemin , long an influential force behind the scenes, to stop meddling in politics.

We wish current President Xi Jinping well in trying to shake off "old men's politics" and effectively pave the way for a new political culture - not just for his administration's sake but in the interests of good governance.

It is unclear, given the opacity of party political affairs, whether the commentary and the historical backgrounder signal a warning to Jiang and his allies, or a move to curb their influence.

At the same time, by all accounts, Xi is determined to press on with an anti-corruption campaign that has netted dozens of officials seen as Jiang's supporters and strongest allies.

One thing that is clear is that Xi is probably alone in being able to take on so much, having consolidated enough power to give him final say on important issues.