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Who will rule China? This man got it right thrice

Ho, 47, was the first to correctly name China's top seven new leaders and their portfolios. (PHOTO: HUANG PING)

Publication Date : 23-11-2012


He last set foot on Chinese soil in 1997, but New York-based publisher Ho Pin certainly has the Midas touch in predicting who's in and who's out back in his home country.

Ho, 47, a native of Hunan who left China in 1989, was the first to correctly name the top seven new leaders and their portfolios, in an October 22 interview with the Voice of America.

Nor is this the first time the former reporter got it right: He correctly forecast the list of new leaders at the last two Communist Party congresses too, making him probably the only one who was right thrice in a row.

While there was little doubt this time that Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang would be in the apex Politburo Standing Committee (PSC), it was hard to say who would join them, as selection occurs behind closed doors.

But the founder of Mirror Books, which produces books, magazines and websites on Chinese politics and history, was so sure of being right again that he promised a refund for books bought if he was wrong.

What's better, he was right too about the 25-member Politburo, the next most powerful body. "Never in our dreams did we think we'd get all 25 members right," he said over the phone from New York.

On how he trumped the Beijing-based media, he said the difference was that his team has been tracking elite leadership news for years and can judge better what is true or not.

He and his researchers, who number in the dozens, received many versions of the line-up but none turned out to be correct. By analysing the lists and applying their judgment, they came up with their own list.

"Even up to the last minute, we kept getting tip-offs that the PSC has gone back to having nine members," he said.

But he disregarded them as he believed certain procedures had to take place first, making last-minute changes unlikely. "It's different from Mao Zedong's strongman era," he said.

There are some who accuse him of using his publications to undermine President Hu Jintao, as Ho is said to be close to retired strongman Jiang Zemin. But he says he does not take sides. His sources include Chinese scholars, officials and the families of cadres, he said.

Ho left China for Toronto, Canada, after the Tiananmen protests. "I didn't like a place without freedom," he said.

He set up Mirror Books in 1991 and moved to New York a few years later.

He does not see himself returning to China any time soon. "I don't need to go back to China to observe China. Even in my dreams, I know what's happening in my China, because I understand this country too well."


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