July 9, 2012, by China Policy Institute

Beijing Party Congress Closes a Major Phase Leading Up to the 18th Party Congress

By Zhengxu Wang.

The Party Congress of Beijing officially closed on 4 July, ‘electing’ a new Party Committee, Standing Party Committee, and the Party Secretary and two deputy secretaries. Guo Jinlong, the incumbent Mayor of Beijing, was ‘elected’ as the Party Secretary. I used quotation marks for the words ‘electing’ and ‘elected’ because these elections are not quite genuine elections as we know them in a Western context.

In any case, Guo Jinlong’s confirmation terminated the speculation that Hu Chunhua, the very young and promising Party Secretary of Inner Mongolia, was to be moved to take over Beijing.

Meanwhile, the Party Congress of Chongqing, which finished a bit earlier on 22 June, ‘elected’ the incumbent Zhang Dejiang to be the City’s Party Secretary. As a Politburo member and Vice Premier, Zhang was appointed to this post in March when Bo Xilai was removed as Party Secretary of Chongqing (see CPI blog here).

As Zhang is definitely returning to Beijing at the 18th Party Congress later this year, and very likely entering the Political Bureau Standing Committee, this means his role in Chongqing remains a care-taking one. He is still asked to keep the seat warm for somebody else. The ‘real’ Party Secretary of Chongqing is not determined yet. Zhou Qiang, the current Party Secretary of Hunan, has been long rumored to be the one. And he remains a most likely one.

Just several weeks ago, I was told that the Party officials of deputy bureau-level (fu siji or fu juji) and above were briefed (chuanda) on 4th June of two rules the Center has agreed on regarding age limits for the new Politburo membership that will apply at the 18th Party Congress:

1) 1945 is the cut-off birth-year for anyone at the deputy-state rank (fu guojiaji) to enter or stay in the Politburo; and
2) 1949 is the cut-off birth-year for anyone else.

This means, first, no one born before 1945 (therefore older than 67) can enter or stay in the Politburo. This follows the precedent set by Li Ruihuan’s retirement from Politburo Standing Committee in 2002, a rule that was applied again in 2007.  No news here, therefore.

But it also means that for anyone born between 1945-1949 (therefore 63 -67 years old, inclusive) to enter or stay in the Politburo, he or she has to be on or obtain a deputy-state level post.

Therefore, the four provincial party secretaries (Beijing, Tianjin, Shanghai, Guangdong, Chongqing), as well as a few Party Center posts, such as directors of the Organisation and Propaganda Departments and the Central Office, should be taken up by someone born in 1949 or later (younger than 63), if they are to be kept in the Politburo.

That would have meant that Guo Jinlong (born 1947) had become ineligible for the Beijing post he now assumes. So how this reversal of a pre-agreed rule was made possible remains a mystery for now.

But in any case, the Party Congress of Beijing was the last of China’s 31 provincial units. With its completion, the 18thParty Congress becomes much closer. With rains keep pouring down in Beijing these days, the Party leaders are now very busy with settling many issues in time for the Congress.

Dr Zhengxu Wang is  Deputy Director of the China Policy Institute and Lecturer at the School of Contemporary Chinese Studies

Opinions expressed in the CPI blog do not represent the views of the China Policy Institute or the School of Contemporary Chinese Studies at the University of Nottingham. They are the personal views of the bloggers/authors.

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