New York Times:In Graft Inquiry, Chinese See a Shake-Up Coming
BEIJING, Oct. 3 — When Shanghai’s party boss was detained in an
anticorruption probe last week, Chinese were rattled by news of the
first purge of a high-ranking Communist Party leader since 1995. But
the investigation’s scope and its ultimate goals are wider, as the
party’s two most powerful officials aim to shake up the leadership and
wipe out resistance to their policy agenda, party officials and
The investigation, the largest of its kind since China
first pursued market-style changes to its economy more than a
quarter-century ago, was planned and supervised by Zeng Qinghong,
China’s vice president and the day-to-day manager of Communist Party
affairs, people informed about the operation said.
They said Mr.
Zeng had used the investigation to force provincial leaders to heed
Beijing’s economic directives, sideline officials loyal to the former
top leader, Jiang Zemin, and strengthen Mr. Zeng’s own hand as well as that of his current master, President Hu Jintao.
from frightening officials who have grown accustomed to increasingly
conspicuous corruption in recent years, the crackdown could give Mr. Hu
greater leeway to carry out his agenda for broader welfare benefits and
stronger pollution controls, which may prove popular in China today.
critics fear that it may also consolidate greater power in the hands of
a leader who has consistently sought to restrict the news media, censor
the Web and punish peaceful political dissent.
purge began on Sept. 25, when Chen Liangyu, the Shanghai party leader
and a Politburo member, was removed from his office on corruption
charges. Party security forces had already detained high-ranking
officials in Shanghai, Beijing, Tianjin, Fujian and Hunan. Mr. Chen is
the most powerful person removed from office since 1995, when the
Beijing party leader was purged, also on corruption charges, during a
Several party officials and well-informed
political observers said they believed that the investigation had not
yet reached its climax. They say Mr. Zeng hopes to dismiss two fellow
members of the Politburo Standing Committee, Jia Qinglin and Huang Ju,
who are under pressure to take “political responsibility” for
corruption that has occurred in Beijing and Shanghai, their respective
areas of influence.
If he succeeds in removing officials who
serve on the nine-member Standing Committee, the party’s top
leadership, the purge will amount to the biggest political shake-up
since 1989, when Deng Xiaoping ousted Zhao Ziyang, then the party’s general secretary, after the crackdown on democracy protests in Beijing.
would also be likely to seal Mr. Zeng’s reputation as China’s political
mastermind, who mixes personal ambition with a nearly legendary ability
to deliver results for his superiors. Officially ranked No. 5 in the
party hierarchy, he is widely seen as exercising more authority within
the party than anyone except Mr. Hu.
Chinese politicking takes
place under a heavy veil of secrecy, and speculation about what happens
in Zhongnanhai, the Chinese leadership compound, has been intense since
Mr. Chen’s detention last week.
It is rarely possible to get
authoritative confirmation of political maneuvers in China. The people
who discussed the situation with a foreign reporter did so on condition
of anonymity, citing fears of retribution.
The course of the
anticorruption campaign may shift if central leaders face a strong
backlash at the party’s annual Central Committee meeting, which will be
held Oct. 8-11. One well-placed political observer said he doubted that
Mr. Huang or Mr. Jia would be forced from office before their expected
retirement next year.
Even so, the weakened position of the two
men and their patron, Mr. Jiang, whom Mr. Hu and Mr. Zeng pushed from
his last post in 2004, could have a significant impact on Chinese
policy and leadership decisions.
Mr. Jiang’s old loyalists, often
referred to as the Shanghai faction, tended to favor fast economic
growth, a relatively high degree of provincial autonomy in economic
affairs, loose controls on investment and bank lending and close ties
between the party and the country’s rising class of private businessmen.
Hu, 63, and Mr. Zeng, 67, have at least for now forged an alliance that
dominates party leadership, party officials say. They advocate slower
and more stable growth, greater attention to social inequality and
pollution, and an expansion of state support for education, medical
care and social security.
Most of the officials singled out so
far in the anticorruption sweep are seen as closer to Mr. Jiang and as
having ignored central directives to tamp down state-led investment.
That, party officials say, shows that the continuing legal
investigation serves as a cover for a political campaign to change the
party’s policy direction.
Mr. Zeng plans to use the Central
Committee meeting to elevate Mr. Hu’s political slogan, “harmonious
society,” into an official “theory.”
The catch phrase covers a range of policies intended to restore a
balance between the country’s thriving market economy and its neglected
socialist ideology, primarily by paying greater attention to peasants
and migrant workers who have benefited much less than the white-collar
elite in China’s long economic boom.
At the meeting,
party leaders will discuss “the theory of building a harmonious
socialist society,” party officials said. In effect, Mr. Zeng is
promoting Mr. Hu’s concept into doctrine, to be taught alongside the
theories of Mao, Deng and Mr. Jiang.
People informed about Mr.
Zeng’s planning described that step and others as part of a carefully
calculated series of political moves that began last spring.
said Mr. Zeng had instructed the inspectors responsible for enforcing
party discipline to investigate activities in the political strongholds
of Beijing, Shanghai and Tianjin, where he suspected that senior party
officials were allowing rampant profiteering by relatives and friends,
and where the leaders owed their positions mainly to Mr. Jiang.
Those urban enclaves, whose leaders enjoy considerable autonomy, had also defied repeated efforts by Mr. Hu and Wen Jiabao, the prime minister, to rein in bank lending in overheated sectors like real estate.
that Mr. Jiang might seek to protect his allies, Mr. Zeng first moved
to mollify him by rolling out a tribute: the publication of his
collected works. Party units nationwide were instructed to purchase and
study the three-volume collection of speeches and essays, a financial
and political windfall.
The crackdown initially focused on
lower-level officials in the big cities. When investigators gathered
evidence to implicate Mr. Chen, the Shanghai party boss, Mr. Zeng
summoned him to Beijing, presented him with the pending indictment and
pressed him to resign, these people said. He was said to have refused.
with the prospect of a hostile purge, the first of its kind affecting a
Politburo member since 1995, Mr. Zeng and Mr. Hu sent Mr. Chen’s file
to Mr. Jiang, asking for his advice, a person close to Mr. Zeng’s
Confronted with evidence of high-level corruption in Shanghai, Mr. Jiang approved removing Mr. Chen, the people said.
with that victory, Mr. Zeng has pushed to create a new standard of
“political responsibility,” modeled after a code seen by him to prevail
in American politics, which holds senior leaders responsible if their
underlings disgrace the party, people informed about his thinking said.
new standard could be used against Mr. Huang, a former Shanghai party
boss and a Jiang loyalist, and Mr. Jia, who supervised Beijing.
old standard for senior party members was legal guilt,” said one person
who spoke about Mr. Zeng’s thinking. “Under the new standard you could
lose your post for mismanagement even if they can’t prove you put one
cent in your own pocket.”
Others raised doubts that the purge
would reach people that high up the hierarchy. The ruling party risks
undermining its own authority if it acknowledges that corruption
extends into the most elite ruling circle, they said.
More generally, Mr. Zeng’s prominent role has raised questions about his influence relative to Mr. Hu’s, party officials said.
Hu holds the posts of party general secretary, head of the military and
president of China, the country’s three most important. Mr. Zeng,
though he runs the party’s main coordinating office, is outranked in
its official hierarchy not only by Mr. Hu but also by three other
Standing Committee members.
Moreover, until Mr. Hu and Mr. Zeng
unexpectedly joined forces in 2004 to push Mr. Jiang into full
retirement, Mr. Zeng was seen as close to Mr. Jiang. The two worked
side by side since they served in Shanghai together in the 1980’s.
But Mr. Zeng’s campaign to remove some Jiang loyalists may end up
strengthening his own hand as well as Mr. Hu’s, some party officials
suggested. The reason is that Mr. Zeng has become the standard-bearer
for a wide array of political interests.
The son of one of
Mao’s first security chiefs, Mr. Zeng maintains close ties to the sons
and daughters of Communist China’s founding fathers and has relatives
in the military. He has supporters among those who favor deeper
capitalist-style changes to the economy and financial system.
Chinese intellectuals say he has signaled an openness to political
change. Mr. Hu, in contrast, is viewed as cautious and doctrinaire.
Hu has sought to promote officials he trusts from his days as a
provincial official in western China and as the head of the national
Communist Youth League in the 1980’s. Though he now has broad
authority, his traditional base is considered narrower and less
influential than that of Mr. Zeng.
The political dance between
the men underlines uncertainties about the political succession
scheduled to take place in 2007. At that time the party will hold a
congress, as it does every five years, to approve a new lineup of
officials for the Politburo as well as other top party, government and
Party officials say that while Mr. Hu and
Mr. Zeng have worked together to consolidate their own power, they have
not agreed on choices for the Standing Committee or some top provincial
posts. That suggests that their alliance possibly temporary and that
the country’s politics could remain volatile.
“I think that at
this point neither of them has the power to dictate the future,” one
party official said. “They need each other, but that does not mean they
trust each other.”