Chongqing mayor Huang Qifan to move to China’s legislature

New position ends months of speculation the political veteran would take over China’s financial reform, as Beijing promotes a young rising star to head the southwest economic powerhouse

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 29 December, 2016, 8:43pm
UPDATED : Friday, 30 December, 2016, 11:19am

Chongqing mayor Huang Qifan is expected to be transferred to a post in China’s rubber stamp legislature as Beijing promotes a rising political star to succeed him as head of the hinterland’s economic powerhouse.

China has entered an intensive season of reshuffles ahead of the 19th party congress in the fall of next year. Much attention has been paid to the next position for Huang and the choice of his successor.

Sources told the South China Morning Post that Huang is expected to move to one of the sub committees under the National People’s Congress, putting an end to months of speculation that he had been picked by President Xi Jinping to oversee the country’s financial reform.

Huang, at 64, is one year shy of retirement for his level. The new appointment for Huang, who survived a political storm in Chongqing during the time of former city party boss Bo Xilai, signals he would have limited power instead of being fast tracked to taking a senior position in the State Council or financial regulators.

His vacancy would be filled by Zhang Guoqing, deputy party boss of the mega municipality, according to sources.

The announcement is expected to be made public soon.

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The appointment of Zhang, 52, as Chongqing mayor would make him one of the youngest people to take up such a senior post and would give him an edge over his competitors for further promotion. Chongqing is a municipality that enjoys the same authority as a province. Zhang is a former technocrat from a military corporation and boasts no strong affiliations with any typical political faction within the party. Technocrats such as Zhang have gained increasing significance as the current leadership seeks new talent from neutral backgrounds.

For months, speculation was rife that Huang would be appointed to an important position, such as secretary general of the state council. Many pundits believed he had won the favour of Xi, and Huang made some high-profile remarks on economic policies in the past months. Huang was also a member of the entourage when Xi visited the United States in 2015.

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Huang played an important role when Shanghai restructured its state enterprises before he was transferred to Chongqing 15 years ago. He is largely remembered for surviving a political storm in Chongqing in 2012, which saw the city’s then party boss Bo Xilai jailed on corruption charges.

Bo, also once seen as a rising star, was investigated for corruption only months before a major power reshuffle at the 18th Party Congress in 2012.

Huang remained untouched as Beijing quietly rearranged the political landscape of Chongqing after Bo’s downfall and, as one of only two regional chiefs, was trusted with the important task of helping draft a top-level blueprint on comprehensive reforms issued in 2013.

Additional reporting by Eva Li