Sun shines on Xi on final day of China’s party congress, as Wang exits and Jiang runs out of steam
Anti-graft chief remains in character as he retires from the ruling elite, but the day belongs to the president as his name is written into history
After years of being described as stand-offish and aloof, Wang Qishan lived up to his reputation on Tuesday as he made a low-key exit from the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.
As the curtain fell on the 19th National Congress of China’s Communist Party, the 69-year-old veteran and public face of the country’s long-running anti-graft campaign, exchanged only a few words with Premier Li Keqiang, and fellow departing members of the Politburo Standing Committee Yu Zhengsheng and Zhang Gaoli before quietly leaving the stage.
Wang’s departure from the most powerful decision making body in China need not mean he is now destined to lead a life of obscurity, however. As anyone who followed the events in Beijing over the past week will have noticed, being “old” does not mean being forgotten.
Enter former President Jiang Zemin, who at 91 years of age managed to grab almost as much media attention as Xi Jinping.
He was once again seen chatting to Xi on Tuesday, although the strain of seven days of extended speeches, panel discussions and assorted other meetings appeared to be catching up with him.
As the congress announcer was detailing amendments and additions to the party charter, Jiang dropped one of his papers and had to rely on an attendant to retrieve it. The nonagenarian also needed help rising from his chair at the end of the day’s business, and was flanked by two aides as he stood for the closing music.
The sun shone brightly on Tuesday morning in Beijing and no one appeared to relish it more than President Xi. That was perhaps not surprising after he had earlier become just the third man in China’s modern history – after Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping – to have not only his “thoughts” but also his name enshrined in China’s Communist Party charter.
All seemed well in the world as he shook hands with his predecessors Jiang and Hu Jintao before exiting the stage.
The same could not be said for the hordes of journalists who were forced to wait for several hours before being allowed inside for the final day of the congress.
Despite most of them arriving at 8am for the morning session, the various ballots – all of which were held in camera – ran over schedule, so the doors to the main auditorium remained closed until 11am.
A few squabbles broke out between security guards and journalists as the patience of the world’s press slowly waned, while the “one reporter, one phone” policy continued to disgruntle many of the assembled reporters.
By the time the press finally made it inside the Great Hall, there were barely 90 minutes of the event remaining. The almost 2,300 delegates had already collectively agreed to write “Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics in the New Era” into the charter and it was understandably a popular talking point.
“Chairman Xi led us to stand up, to get rich and to become stronger,” Zhang Yongzhong, an engineer at carmaker Chongqing Changan Automobile told the Post when asked what he thought about Xi’s achievement.
Not everyone was as willing to speak to the press, however.
When Feng Hui, the congress delegate representing the police, was asked by a reporter from Voice of America what measures he planned to introduce to ensure there were no repeats of the Lei Yang incident – the 29-year-old environmental scientist died in police custody last year – he declined to comment, made his excuses and left.
Additional reporting by He Huifeng and Laura Zhou