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Ex-Shanghai party boss is top adviser
Publication Date : 12-03-2013
Ex-Shanghai party boss Yu Zhengsheng has been elected China's top political adviser, scoring an almost unanimous vote eclipsing that of his predecessors.
At a closed-door election yesterday that saw a total of 2,193 Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) delegates casting their ballots, 2,188 voted for him and four against, with one abstention. His 99.7 per cent rate is a new high after Li Ruihuan scored 99.2 per cent in 1998.
Some observers believe the groundswell reflects a stronger desire among the people for political reforms under Communist Party chief Xi Jinping.
Said Beijing-based analyst Russell Leigh Moses: "It's a sign of hope for a more robust reform agenda from the new leadership, which has shown clearly that it takes consultation outside the Communist Party very seriously."
He believes the CPPCC could be allowed to expand its duties to advise on policy decisions before they are implemented.
However, Renmin University analyst Zhang Ming doubts Yu's strong support would amount to any significant changes in the CPPCC, definitely not like a Western-style Senate as talked about in the 1990s.
Said Prof Zhang: "The key reason is that his ren yuan (people skills) is not bad. Talk of a more powerful CPPCC is baseless as it is more like a social club of movie stars and retired leaders."
Also elected to the new leadership were 23 vice-chairmen, such as United Front Work Department (UFWD) head Ling Jihua and central bank chief Zhou Xiaochuan.
Zhou's new role is seen by some as a confirmation of speculation that he would continue as the People's Bank of China chief. The CPPCC job gives him a "national-level" rank that allows him to keep the role, despite busting a 65-year-old age limit for ministerial posts on his Jan 29 birthday.
Said analyst Alistair Thornton of IHS Global Insight: "Keeping Zhou in the role will indicate that the leaders are happy with the direction of reforms he has taken, such as renminbi liberalisation and financial sector reforms."
Another keenly watched name is Ling, former director of the Communist Party's powerful General Office and a close aide of outgoing President Hu Jintao. Ling, tipped for promotion to the Politburo last November, was moved to the UFWD six months after alleged attempts to cover up his son's death in a Ferrari crash last March.
Asked whether the CPPCC would be Ling's last stop, Prof Zhang said: "It's hard to tell."
Yu's result yesterday greatly embarrassed outgoing CPPCC chairman Jia Qinglin. Jia scored 92.7 per cent in 2003. Five years later, he got an improved 98.3 per cent, though it was still lower than that of most of his 25 vice-chairmen elected that year.
A key factor for his low popularity was Jia's links, when he was Fujian party boss, to Xiamen smuggling kingpin Lai Changxing, who was busted in 2000. Another was Jia's image as someone who rode to power on the coat-tails of ex-president Jiang Zemin.
Yu, 68, too, is seen as a loyalist of Jiang's Shanghai faction, having headed the coastal metropolis from 2007 till last November when he entered the Communist Party's apex Politburo Standing Committee. Ranked fourth in the seven-member leadership, Yu will have to retire after five years because of a 68-year age limit.
His duties include overseeing both the warming cross-strait relationship with Taiwan as well as tense ties with Hong Kongers. He will also be required to interact with non-party organisations and CPPCC members who include businessmen, intellectuals and sport personalities like retired NBA star Yao Ming.
Among the vice-chairmen elected yesterday were three provincial party bosses: Hebei's Zhang Qingli, who is the CPPCC's new secretary-general, Henan's Lu Zhangong and Jiangxi's Su Rong. Their CPPCC posts spell an imminent exit from their respective provinces, said Prof Zhang.