China hi-tech hub mayor adds party chief to his résumé

Former deputy Xu Qin takes over as his boss becomes Guangdong governor

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 31 December, 2016, 7:25pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 31 December, 2016, 10:53pm

Shenzhen mayor Xu Qin, who has a strong technology background and no political baggage, has been elevated to lead the Communist Party in the hi-tech hub.

Xu replaced Ma Xingrui as city party chief on Saturday, a day after Ma was named acting governor of Guangdong to replace Zhu Xiaodan, a brief report by the China News Service said.

The decision was made in a meeting by the city’s leadership and cadres, the report said. Xu was also made a member of the party’s Guangdong provincial committee, and is expected to secure an alternate membership of the next Central Committee in the party’s personnel reshuffle in autumn.

Xu, 55, is a high-tech expert who has helped make Shenzhen a technology hub over the years.

A source said Xu was not affiliated with any political faction within the party, but it was not known if that would be to his advantage.

Other officials, including Ma, who were given prominent positions ahead of a major party congress in autumn, have no strong political affiliations. This is seen by observers as a sign the top leadership is wary of the formation of factions that could pose a threat to their authority.

Xu, who served as deputy party chief under Ma, obtained a doctoral degree in business management at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University in 2004, and has a track record in high-tech industry development.

China hi-tech hub chief promoted to Guangdong governor

From July 2005 to April 2008, he was director of value-added industry for the National Development and Reform Commission. He then moved to Shenzhen as a standing committee member of the city’s party committee and executive vice mayor. In June, 2010, he was promoted to deputy party chief and mayor.

Ma said early in 2016 that the city would continue to encourage labour-intensive manufacturing to relocate elsewhere, and replace them with internet and tech-driven industries. The city is also banking on research and development to expand its economy to 2.6 trillion yuan (HK$2.9 trillion) by 2020. Innovation-driven industries such as internet and information technology companies accounted for 40 per cent of the city’s GDP in 2015.

Shenzhen and Hong Kong signed agreements to foster cross-border economic cooperation early last year, with the Qianhai special economic zone serving as a bridge.

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Xu’s predecessor Ma, who became Shenzhen party chief in March 2015, also had a strong technology background, overseeing the Chang’e-3 lunar programme as the director of China National Space Administration.

Pundits had expected that Ma, as a member of the party central committee, would not stay in the city for long. It is unusual for a central committee member to be Shenzhen party chief.

Peng Peng, a researcher at the Guangzhou Academy of Social Sciences, said Xu had been a strong contender to be named Shenzhen party chief, as not many standing committee members of the Guangdong party committee had hi-tech backgrounds.

“Guangdong and Shenzhen will rely on the technology industry, and focus more on restructuring the manufacturing sector, for which innovation is the key,” he said.