image

Bo Xilai

Rising stars put on a show of harmony

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 13 December, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 13 December, 2011, 12:00am

Long-time political rivals Wang Yang and Bo Xilai - the Communist Party bosses of Guangdong and Chongqing, respectively - put on a show of harmony in Beijing on the weekend in an apparent effort to dispel rumours of fierce competition before a leadership reshuffle expected next year.

The pair struck a surprisingly friendly pose and signed a deal in Beijing on Sunday to strengthen and expand long-term co-operation, based on an accord inked two years ago when Wang visited Chongqing.

Wang said Guangdong congratulated Chongqing on its 'great achievement' in building a 'livable, green, smooth-running, safe and healthy' city, as pledged by Bo.

'The co-operation between Chongqing and Guangdong is very friendly,' yesterday's edition of The Southern Metropolis News quoted Wang as saying. Wang was Bo's predecessor as Chongqing party secretary, and some have seen Bo's campaigns in that city as indirect criticism of Wang's former administration.

Wang said Guangdong invested more than 43 billion yuan (HK$52.6 billion) in more than a thousand projects in Chongqing last year and there were more than 5,000 Guangdong companies operating in Chongqing - evidence of 'broad and deep collaboration'.

Meanwhile, Bo complimented Guangdong on its economic transformation and 'Happy Guangdong' campaign. The province vowed in its five-year plan to slow its annual economic growth rate from 12.5 per cent to 8 per cent so as to focus on 'real happiness' for its people.

Veteran China watcher Johnny Lau Yui-siu said there would still be plenty of arm wrestling amid the hand shaking before the 18th party congress next year, in which a major change in leadership is expected.

'The joint show suggests that Beijing wants to build a harmonious atmosphere ahead of next year's 18th party congress, especially where regional competition is concerned,' Lau said. 'External media have long gossiped about the pair's vicious competition and have regarded it as a typical power struggle between Bo's princeling group [made up of the children of party elders] and Wang's Youth League group, the power base of President Hu Jintao .'

Beijing was trying to dispel rumours of such a power struggle, Lau said. He said that although Wang and Bo would not criticise each other publicly, they tried to highlight their own achievements and downplay those of their rival through the regional media they each controlled.

Liu Guanglei, secretary of Chongqing's politics and law committee, told Chongqing media on Sunday the municipality had become one of the mainland's safest and most stable regions thanks to its ongoing anti-triad campaign.

Bo has vowed to hang on to Chongqing's title as 'China's happiest city' by slowing the growth of its gross domestic product from 18 per cent to 12.5 per cent and focusing on improving people's livelihoods.

In June, when Bo led a mass revolutionary singalong before the Communist Party's 90th anniversary, Wang told cadres not to be overwhelmed by flowers and applause and not to overlook public opinion.