18th Party Congress

Jiang Zemin faction wins in China's game of thrones

Former president outmanoeuvred his successor Hu Jintao, who only got one man from his faction into the Politburo Standing Committee

PUBLISHED : Friday, 16 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 16 November, 2012, 7:51am

In a game between two sides, a win for one is a loss for the other.

In the game of party power, most analysts believe former president Jiang Zemin outmanoeuvred his successor, Hu Jintao , in influencing the selection of the next generation of leaders.

Hu, who stood down as Communist Party secretary general at the party's just-concluded 18th national congress, has failed to install political allies in several key positions, particularly membership of the party's inner-most Politburo Standing Committee.

"By and large, we can see a line-up dominated by Jiang's men," said Liu Kang, director of US-based Duke University's China Research Centre.

Johnny Lau Yui-siu, a veteran China watcher, said: "Of these seven people [appointed to the Politburo Standing Committee], it's really six versus one because only Li Keqiang is seen as Hu's man, coming from the Communist Youth League."

The league, Hu's power base, is seen as a training ground for future leaders.

Most China watchers agreed the single most important factor in the selection of the Politburo Standing Committee and the wider, 25-member Politburo, was "patron-client ties".

Cheng Li, director of research at the John Thornton China Centre at the Brookings Institution in Washington, characterised the leadership today as "one party, two coalitions". One coalition, the so-called Shanghai faction that also includes the princelings, the offspring of revolutionary leaders, is led by Jiang's protégés. The other coalition consists primarily of former officials from the Communist Youth League and is led by Hu.

Gu Su , a political affairs analyst at Nanjing University, said: "The latest line-up of the Politburo Standing Committee means Jiang was a clear winner.

"I have always thought there would be at least one more man from the Communist Youth League in the standing committee. Li Keqiang will be fighting a very lonely battle from now on."

Analysts view the failure to promote party organisation head Li Yuanchao and Guangdong party boss Wang Yang as signs of Hu's loss of influence.

Of the 25 Politburo members, nine are from the Communist Youth League. Analysts said Hu also failed to get Hunan party chief Zhou Qiang and his former chief of staff, Ling Jihua , promoted to the Politburo. Chen Shiju , Hu's personal aide, failed to win promotion to the 205-strong Central Committee or one of its 171 alternate members.

Premier Wen Jiabao also appears to have lost in the battle to promote his protégés. A glaring example is Ma Wen , who surprisingly did not retain her spot on the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, the party's anti-graft watchdog.

Most analysts said Jiang, who stepped down as party chief in 2002, played a key role in selecting the new leadership, outmanoeuvring Hu in some cases.

"One thing is obvious, Jiang has played a big role and his faction seems to have dominated this process," Liu said.

However, analysts also said Hu protégés were well positioned to become leading candidates for the Politburo Standing Committee in 2017, when, as Lau pointed out, five of its seven members - all Jiang allies - will reach retirement age. New party general secretary Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang are the only Politburo Standing Committee members expected to be the core of the new leadership for the next 10 years.

"We can expect Hu's allies to outclass Jiang's on the Politburo Standing Committee at the 19th party congress," Lau said.

Analysts also said Hu protégés Sun Zhencai , Jilin's party chief, and Hu Chunhua , Inner Mongolia's party boss, were both from Communist Youth League. At 49, they are the youngest Politburo members and among leaders expected to reach the pinnacle of power a decade from now.