Outsider from Tianjin breaks 33-year tradition to become Guangzhou party chief

Tianjin deputy mayor Ren Xuefeng breaks 33-year tradition of appointing as party secretary someone with Guangdong background

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 28 August, 2014, 4:45am
UPDATED : Thursday, 28 August, 2014, 11:20am

For the first time in 33 years, someone from outside the ranks of Guangdong cadres has been named the Communist Party secretary of its biggest city, Guangzhou.

Ren Xuefeng, previously deputy mayor of Tianjin , replaces Wan Qingliang , who is under investigation for corruption.

Observers said the appointment showed Ren was a rising political star favoured by the party leadership in Beijing.

They also said the appointment could benefit the city's economic development and cross-border cooperation because Ren had business experience in Hong Kong and had worked in Tianjin's Binhai New Area, a major economic development zone.

The official Guangzhou Daily yesterday confirmed Ren's appointment in a one-line report. The announcement came after months of speculation over whether he or Ma Xingrui , the deputy party secretary in Guangdong, would take up the position.

Ren, 48, comes from Hebei province and is regarded by analysts as a relatively young and well-educated talent within the party. He has a PhD in management from Nankai University in Tianjin.

Ren had extensive experience working in Tianjin's industries and technological park, the predecessor of the Binhai zone, in the 1990s.

Between 2004 and 2008, he was part of the management team at Tsinlein Group, an investment company based in Hong Kong which served as the de facto representative office of the Tianjin government in the city.

He became Tianjin's deputy mayor in 2008.

Beijing media have reported that Ren is fluent in English and has chaired international conferences without a translator.

Peng Peng , a researcher at the Guangzhou Academy of Social Sciences, said appointing a party chief from outside the province was significant.

"Traditionally, Guangzhou party secretaries are generated from local candidates. This might be a gesture by Beijing to shuffle local political power," Peng said.

Since 1981, all nine Guangzhou party bosses, including Wan, had previous careers in Guangdong, although not all were Guangdong natives.

Ren's experience working in Hong Kong and in an economic development zone meant he had a solid economic background that could help Guangzhou boost its slowing economic development, said Peng, adding that his experience in Binhai would be important for developing the city's new Nansha development zone.

Xiao Bin , a professor of political science at Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou, said Ren's appointment was a welcome move.

"Appointing someone from outside Guangdong will help drive the pace of reform. His background in Hong Kong and Binhai is positive to Guangzhou's development," said Xiao.