Guangdong party secretary Wang Yang downplayed his straight-talking, reformist reputation and reined in his lighter side yesterday amid speculation that he may miss out on promotion to the Communist Party's Politburo Standing Committee at this party congress.
Chairing a discussion among Guangdong delegates, and watched by hundreds of journalists, 57-year-old Wang looked relaxed but shied away from praising Guangdong's progress in reforms.
"Every member of China's Communist Party, including myself, is a reformist or else there is no today," he said in reply to a question from one reporter.
He quickly wiped off an awkward look after being asked about the direct-election model introduced in Wukan village in eastern Guangdong after rioting and protests, and sidestepped the question.
"Our so-called reform to explore the Chinese socialist approach is based on the practical needs of Guangdong," he said. "We will follow the themes of the 18th party congress to push for reform. This will not change. China and Guangdong will continue to work on reform and opening up."
It was a marked contrast to Wang's bold, open-minded and humorous showing at a press gathering during the annual meeting of the National Party Congress in March.
Wang dodged three journalists' questions about his chances of promotion to the party's supreme Politburo Standing Committee. There has been intense speculation that he is unlikely to make it due to his relative youth.
He may have to wait until the next top leadership reshuffle in five years. Political observers said he was likely to be given an important position in the central government in the meantime.
The delegation arrived at the Great Hall of the People 20 minutes before the 9am start. Wang read a copy of the Nanfang Daily, the party's provincial mouthpiece, to kill time, then suggested delegates pose for photographs after an awkward silence.