The Communist Party's mouthpiece yesterday published an article lavishing rare praise on the late vice-premier Huang Ju , who was plagued by corruption scandal rumours before his death last year.
It was the first time since Huang's death that state media made such comments about him. The article was published on the same day that Xinhua announced that a major gathering of the party elite would take place early next month, sparking speculation over whether political changes lay ahead.
Splashed prominently on the second page of People's Daily, the 4,200-word article was titled 'Fulfilling his obligations and devoting his life'.
It was aimed at demonstrating Huang's lingering political influence as well as making a fresh attempt to resurrect his tainted image, political analysts said.
Huang, who rose through the ranks in Shanghai to become China's No 6 official, was well-known for his close ties with former president Jiang Zemin and his vital role in the Shanghai faction.
He died of cancer in June last year after a long illness.
'With reverence and high respect, we deeply recall comrade Huang Ju's contribution to the great cause of socialism with Chinese characteristics during his tenure as executive vice-premier,' said the article.
Without mentioning specific authors, the article was attributed to the party's historic research office and appeared on what would have been Huang's 70th birthday.
Huang was promoted to the Politburo Standing Committee in 2002 and became executive vice-premier in 2003. His portfolio included important areas: financial affairs, industry, transport and the reform of state-owned enterprises. He also oversaw production safety, employment and social security.
'He did a lot and made great contributions to strengthening and improving macro control, adjusting economic structure, changing development mode, stirring economic growth and improving the people's livelihood,' it said.
It praised Huang's role in overseeing the country's financial reform, especially the appreciation of the yuan and management of the mainland's volatile stock market. It said it showed signs of healthy development under his watch after he created several rules to curb speculation and protect individual investors.
Huang was also fondly remembered for his involvement in some of the country's largest energy and transport projects, most notably the controversial express railway between Beijing and Shanghai which began construction this year.
Following the tradition of not providing detail about the illness of a senior leader, the article said Huang attached great importance to the project even after he had a big operation early in 2006. It had been widely reported that he had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.
Huang was, according to the obituary, 'an excellent member of the party, a long-tested and faithful communist fighter and an outstanding leader of the party and the state' - despite intense speculation over his possible involvement in one of the mainland's biggest corruption cases.
The high-profile Shanghai pension fund scandal brought down a number of senior party officials and prominent businessmen, including former Shanghai party boss Chen Liangyu and his principal secretary Wang Weigong .