Chongqing mayor who survived China’s biggest political storm of modern times resigns

Huang Qifan, who oversaw the stellar economic performance of Chongqing, has stepped down, official media reports, confirming Post report on Thursday

PUBLISHED : Friday, 30 December, 2016, 11:34am
UPDATED : Friday, 30 December, 2016, 12:12pm

Huang Qifan, who survived a political storm in Chongqing during the tenure of former city party boss Bo Xilai, has resigned as mayor, official media reported on Friday, confirming a South China Morning Post report on Thursday.

Huang, 64, relocated to the municipality of 30 million people in 2001 as a vice mayor and has worked with six party secretaries ever since, including Bo, whose downfall was regarded as one of the most dramatic and significant political struggles in the history of the People’s Republic.

Huang once publicly described his working relations with Bo as “fish and water”.

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He survived the storm partly because he was regarded as a capable manager with experience in developing Shanghai’s Pudong district as well as keeping Chongqing, which enjoys the same authority as a province, as one of the fastest growing regions in China.

Zhang Guoqing, the city’s current deputy party secretary, had been appointed acting mayor, the government-run news portal Cqnew.net reported. The personnel changes were approved by the Chongqing’s local legislature on Friday morning, the report said.

Sources said Zhang would later officially succeed Huang as the mayor.

Sources told the Post that Huang was expected to be transferred to a post at the National People’s Congress, China’s rubber stamp legislature, where he is expected to limited power, rather than being fast tracked to a senior position in the State Council or a financial regulator.

China has entered an intensive season of reshuffling ahead of the 19th party congress next autumn.

Much attention has been paid to the next position for Huang and the choice of his successor in Chongqing, which still enjoys double digit economic growth despite the slowing national economy.

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Sources said Huang was expected to move to one of the subcommittees of the NPC, putting an end to months of speculation that he had been picked by President Xi Jinping to oversee the country’s financial reforms.

The appointment of Zhang, 52, as Chongqing mayor will make him one of the youngest people to take up such a senior post and would give him an edge over his rivals for further promotion.

Zhang is a former technocrat from a military corporation and boasts no strong affiliations to any political faction within the party. Technocrats such as Zhang have gained increasing significance as the current leadership seeks new talent from neutral backgrounds.