Shanghai party chief Yu Zhengsheng laid on the charm yesterday as he made surprisingly candid remarks about an otherwise taboo topic: the disclosure of personal assets for public scrutiny.
Yu, who is widely tipped to ascend to the supreme Politburo Standing Committee next week, said he was willing to reveal his assets because he had nothing to fear.
"It's pretty easy for me to make public my personal assets once the central government decides to move ahead [on the issue]," he said. "Because I haven't actually got much."
Yu spoke yesterday on the sidelines of a week-long Communist Party congress that would usher in a slate of new leaders.
With his response, Yu is one of the most senior mainland officials to openly express willingness to disclose their assets.
His comment is in sharp contrast to the usual evasiveness or clichéd, impersonal answers that most apparatchiks give on this politically sensitive issue.
Beijing has made little headway over the past three decades with "sunshine laws", despite increasing public appeals, that will oblige high-ranking officials to declare their personal assets - a globally accepted measure in tackling corruption at its root.
By comparison, Guangdong party chief Wang Yang , who is widely seen as a leading reformer, sidestepped a similar question on a separate occasion yesterday.
Yu, 67, a princeling who has sat on the 24-member Politburo for 10 years, drew at least 150 reporters who flocked to the Great Hall of the People for a rare chance to get close up to him.
With his brand of ease and media savvy on full display, he even talked about his family, a subject that few other leaders would touch upon.
"My wife fully retired years ago," he said. "My children have their own careers and are struggling to succeed. I've told them not come to Shanghai to look for jobs and to stay away from city officials."
Well prepared for the media circus, Yu was all smiles, taking several other questions from overseas journalists on highly charged topics, including his much-rumoured elevation to the Politburo Standing Committee, the party's apex of power.
"Your question is a bit early actually, because our party is very particular about [leadership] election procedures," he said.
Technically, his answer is flawless as more than 2,200 delegates of the 18th party congress, which opened on Thursday, will elect a new Central Committee next week, which will then decide behind closed doors the final line-up of the new Politburo and its Standing Committee.
Not surprisingly, Yu spoke highly of Xi Jinping , his predecessor in Shanghai who would replace party boss Hu Jintao in less than a week.
"Comrade Jinping joined our group discussion yesterday and I was deeply impressed by his analytical remarks about the themes of the party congress," he said.
Yu is best known for his princeling pedigree, extensive experience on the ground and strong links to various party factions, and many often compare him to disgraced former Chongqing party chief Bo Xilai , who is also known for his personal charm. But analysts say Yu's deliberate low profile may help him land a top job.