The former top aide to outgoing President Hu Jintao scraped through to vice-chairmanship of the nation's top political advisory body yesterday with the lowest number of votes, after his career was hit by a scandal over the cover-up of his son's death in a Ferrari crash in Beijing last March.
The Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) unveiled its new leadership line-up yesterday, with 23 vice-chairmen and 299 standing committee members elected. Politburo Standing Committee member Yu Zhengsheng succeeded Jia Qinglin as chairman of the body.
United Front head Ling Jihua, a Hu protégé, made it to vice-chairman with 90 of the 2,191 delegates voting against him - the highest number of opposition votes recorded yesterday. The second highest was 27. Ling showed no emotion after the result was announced.
Analysts said the result indicated that Ling was still suffering from the Ferrari crash scandal, although it also showed there would not be any further repercussions. Ling, Hu's former chief of staff, was made head of the Communist Party's United Front Work Department, a largely symbolic post, in September.
Vice-chairmanship of the CPPCC is also largely symbolic, but those holding the office are regarded as "state leaders" and entitled to a range of perks.
Many CPPCC delegates were tight-lipped about why Ling met with strong opposition in the largely ceremonial election, but Hong Kong's Lo Man-tuen described the voting as an indication that the election mechanism for the advisory group had become more democratic.
Zhang Ming, a political scientist at Renmin University in Beijing, said Ling's unpopularity was due to the cover-up. "Getting more than 2,000 affirmative votes is already a very good result for him. Besides, I heard that he had a poor working attitude and didn't treat his staff well."
China Development Bank governor Chen Yuan, the "princeling" son of the late party veteran Chen Yun, was also made a vice-chairman despite 27 opposition votes, considered high among those whose parents were senior party officials.
Other new vice-chairmen include Hebei party chief Zhang Qingli, Jiangxi party chief Su Rong, Henan party chief Lu Zhangong and People's Bank of China governor Zhou Xiaochuan .
One surprise was outgoing Commerce Minister Chen Deming's failure to become a vice-chairman. He was only named a standing committee member of the body. Taiwanese media had reported that Chen would become the next chairman of the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits (Arats), and making him a CPPCC vice-chairman would have elevated the status of the mainland body responsible for negotiations with Taiwan.
Deng Pufang , 68, the first son of late paramount leader Deng Xiaoping , stepped down as a vice-chairman.
Chen Shiju , Hu's secretary, was also made a CPPCC standing committee member.
Deng Nan , the second daughter of Deng Xiaoping, and Li Xiaolin, the daughter of former president Li Xiannian , also became CPPCC standing committee members.
Huang Liman , who is viewed as one of former president Jiang Zemin's closest allies, was also made a member of the standing committee.