Unless combovers and dye jobs are your thing, the Chinese Communist Party is not generally known for its youthful good looks. Perhaps that’s why on Sunday, as part of a new campaign to nurture young cadres and rejuvenate the Party, a 29-year old man was elected mayor of the small city of Yicheng, in Hubei Province.
Born in 1980, Zhou Senfeng is supposedly the youngest city mayor in China. However, his new position is causing lots of heated debate from citizens who believe he is too inexperienced to handle political issues and power. Many suspect he must have come into power through family connections or other means.
Both the government and local media have pointed out that Zhou comes from no political family background, but rather a rural ceramic factory background. In a response, Zhou wrote to Xinhua:
“The concerns about my inexperience are reasonable, I should say.
As a youthful mayor born after 1980, I lagged far behind senior officials in experience. But what young officials need is the stage where they can perform. We will develop better given such a stage. As a young mayor, I will keep expanding my horizons and keep learning from people around me.”
An editorial in the Southern Metropolis Daily entitled “Even an 18-year-old mayor is fine” argues that the problem is not with Zhou’s age, but the election system that promoted him. From Danwei:
For the ordinary folk, they don’t have any right to speak. And this overseeing of officials and the attracting of talent － for example the frequent moves, quick elevations － whether it can really mold an official into someone who understands what the people want and understand the people’s circumstances, and is capable of dealing with complicated issues: we need to wait for scientific investigation. This then presents the second question: how to improve the closed, un-transparent nature of overseeing younger officials, and its lack of scientific and legal nature.
On becoming mayor, the article on cnhubei.net stated that his length of service, and his experience working at the base level is not compatible with the regulations for selecting head cadres for Party affairs and government. And apart from a series of posts which make people dizzy just looking at them, apart from the change in titles, the public has not really seen any outstanding ability or political achievement by this mayor, and the need to break rules to promote him.
Further controversy seems on the horizon as reports are coming out that Zhou plagiarized his master’s thesis. Proving politicians may be old or young, but they’re still politicians.