Wang Rong makes debut at Shenzhen party congress

Shenzhen started a three-day Communist Party congress yesterday that will set the tone for its long-term strategic development and decide the make-up of the city's new party leadership.

The meeting is being closely watched as it carries a significant impact on the future of the city as it faces the challenge of implementing the development blueprints endorsed by the State Council for the Pearl River delta. It is also being held at a critical political juncture, as it is the first formal appearance of Wang Rong as the city's new party boss.

Wang was promoted from acting mayor last month.

Traditionally, the party congress decides the make-up of the city's party leadership and sets the tone for the people's congress, which will take place early next month.

Important government posts, such as the mayor's post, will be finalised at the people's congress. But any personnel reshuffle at the party's congress normally gives a good indication of what to expect at the people's congress.

Addressing yesterday's party congress, Wang was quoted by the People's Daily website as saying the meeting was not only critical to Shenzhen's development in the next five years but also vital to its future as it would also set the tone for the city's development for the next 30 years.

Wang highlighted the challenges lying ahead of Shenzhen, where the shortages of land and resources are hindering development.

The Yangcheng Evening News reported yesterday that Shenzhen had a floating population of 12 million as of Tuesday and permanent population of about 2.5 million. With its floating population accounting for 82 per cent of the city's total, Wang said it would be very difficult to plan social services such as housing, medical and education.

He added that some government officials lacked the spirit of innovation and that corruption still remained a very tough issue.

Commenting on Shenzhen's party congress, Dr Peng Peng, a researcher at the Guangzhou Academy of Social Sciences, said decisions made in the meeting would have political significance.

He said the meeting would prepare Shenzhen in drafting its 12th five-year programme, which would be critical in determining whether Shenzhen could find a breakthrough to upgrade to an international metropolis.

Peng said Shenzhen should focus on overcoming barriers to allow high-technology business to blossom in the city and implementing good urban planning such as reducing carbon emissions, better utilising land resources and improving residential water storage facilities.

He also said the city needed to come up with ways to reform the public service sector as most current officials lacked the vision to lead the city forward. He urged the city to allow more room for young officials to develop and learn how to fight graft and provide efficient governance from Hong Kong.

Shenzhen suffered a double blow last year with the downfall of its mayor, Xu Zongheng , who has been under investigation for about a year for corruption, and a slow economic growth rate because of the global economic crisis.

Wang was brought in from Suzhou to steady the boat. As the new party secretary, he succeeds Liu Yupu, who retired. The position of Shenzhen mayor has been left vacant ever since.

Zhu Jianguo, a Shenzhen-based independent commentator, said he had always been impressed by Wang's spirit of reform, but he expressed little confidence that the new party boss could translate his ambition into concrete action.

'Shenzhen's vitality lies with its courage to break rules and seek development outside a preset framework laid out by the central government 30 years ago,' Zhu said. 'Under the current political atmosphere, Beijing is more sincere about imposing administrative reform rather than radical institutional reform. I doubt if Wang can break rules and take Shenzhen to a new breakthrough.'