Image credit: James Griffiths
Cracks are beginning to appear in the normally implacable façade of the Communist Party of China (CPC) as evidence of infighting between President Hu Jintao and his predecessor, Jiang Zemin, grows. Fallout from the Bo Xilai scandal and New York Times Wen Jiabao exposé continues, with some commentators suggesting the upcoming leadership transition is descending into “chaos“.
Li Yuanchao, currently serving as head of a the CPC Organisation Department, is believed to have been one of the seven men on a draft line-up for the standing committee agreed upon by Hu, Jiang, and Vice-President Xi Jinping. However, Li’s prospective position is now believed to be in doubt after he was linked to Ling Jihua, a key ally of President Hu who was sacked after being implicated in a cover-up of his son’s death in a high-speed Ferrari accident.
Both Li and Ling are protégés of Hu, and party insiders point to their ousting as evidence of an ongoing power struggle between Hu and Jiang, one in which Jiang would appear to have the upper hand, especially following the recent scandal over the vast wealth held by various members of Hu ally Wen Jiabao‘s extended family.
‘Li Yuanchao has been implicated in a conspiracy with Ling Jihua and he has been kicked out by Jiang Zemin,” said a princeling source, who has ties to officials in the offices of top leaders, citing what he said was the result of a key meeting on October 22.
It is believed that Li’s position has been given to Yu Zhengsheng, a protégé of both former Paramount Leader Deng Xiaoping and Jiang’s. Yu, currently serving as party boss of Shanghai, where Jiang built the power base which carried him to the presidency, formed strong ties with Jiang while working beneath him at the Ministry of Electronics in the 1980s.
However, while Hu’s power within the party seems to be weakening, his control over the military continues to be strong after a number of his key allies were promoted to senior positions on the Central Military Commission (CMC) prior to the CPC leadership transition. Hu is widely expected to retain his position as Chairman of the CMC after he resigns as President this month, as did Jiang Zemin when Hu himself acceded to the presidency.
While some CMC Chairmen have wielded a great deal of power, notably Deng Xiaoping who used the position to rule as ‘paramount leader’ behind the scenes, others, including Jiang, have been less forceful. While Jiang was an irritant to Hu until he finally resigned in 2004, he did not dictate policy in the manner of Deng, nor should it be expected that Hu will be able to do so to Xi Jinping.
Xi, though a Hu ally, may face a cabinet packed with Jiang supporters. He will have to master a difficult balancing act between the two party grandees, though one he is presumably already reasonably expert at, until he can cement his own, distinct power base.
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