Shanghai is back in Beijing’s good books. Or so an article published by the People’s Daily two weeks ago indicates, claims the Associated Press. The article, titled “Glad to hear the new good tidings from Shanghai”, lavished praise on Shanghai for it’s recent successes. “A golden breeze refreshes Shanghai; one important, auspicious event after another” gushed the lead article. It is a sign, claims AP, that the fallout from last year’s pension scandal has started to settle. As AP points out:
…such propaganda is a cue that top communist leaders have come to a consensus that the scandal was confined to a few “bad elements” and that China’s biggest and richest city has Beijing’s support.
Shanghai’s political rehabilitation might not stop there, if reports of party chief Xi Jinping’s (习近平) imminent promotion to the Politburo are to be believed. Reuters is calling Xi a “dark horse” in the race, but earlier reporting presented Xi’s eventual promotion as a fait accompli – a promotion that need only be rubber-stamped at the National Congress in October. There are also rumours circulating that Xi, along with other prominent front-runner Li Keqiang, might both be promoted to the Standing Committee – a step above the politburo. If that were the case, Mr Xi might have to leave his position as Shanghai party chief.
When former Zhejiang party secretary and “Princeling” Xi Jinping was parachuted in as new Shanghai party chief following Chen Liangyu’s ignominious departure 6 months ago, some saw the appointment as being the perfect compromise that would please both Hu Jintao and Jiang Zemin’s rivaling factions. Mr Xi was perfect for the job, claimed one family friend because –
He is a very neutral person who has always avoided showing any strong political opinions, neither supporting or opposing people and their policies openly. He is not someone with great charisma, neither will he cause any harm. He is the perfect compromise candidate who would be acceptable to Jiang’s ‘Shanghai gang’. (via Times Online)
But is Mr Xi as bland and middle-of-the-road as he sounds? A cursory look at his particular pedigree shows we shouldn’t be too quick to judge. For one thing, his wife of twenty years – Peng Liyuan (彭丽媛) – is one of China’s leading folksingers; and as a “Princeling” taizi (太子), Xi is the closest thing the Communist Party has to royalty.
Xi’s father – Xi Zhongxuan (习仲勋) – was not only a revolutionary back before it was cool; he was also a chief architect of China’s Special Economic Zones (SEZ’s), and perhaps most interestingly, he was the only top official official to stand up for political reformer Hu Yaobang when he came under attack in 1986-87.
Is it possible that Xi junior might have inherited some of his father’s panache? Could this “dark horse” turn out to be a trojan horse for fresh and interesting elite Chinese politicking? Shanghaiist is waiting expectantly for the 17th National Congress to reveal all.
Photo of Xi Jinping from gov.ce.cn