Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Is Xi Jinping the Successor to Hu?

It is widely believed that Xi Jinping, the 8th Vice President of the People's Republic of China could possibly be the next President, when Hu Jintao finishes his term in 2012. The 204-member Central Committee that opened up its annual meeting on September 15 in Beijing, will decide whether to induct Jinping into the Central Military Commission. If he is selected to this mighty powerful body, it will be a clear indication of his succession to Hu. However, if he is not selected, then that move will reflect upon the possible discord among the top leadership as to who should take the mantle from Hu.

There is a general consensus among China watchers that Jinping will be taking over from Hu, given that he was already shown the door two years ago, when he was appointed to the Politburo Standing Committee in 2007. However, internal political discord cannot be ruled out. For instance, within the Standing Committee, Xi outranks Li Keqiang, a long-time protégé of Hu. Li Keqiang is believed to be taking over from Wen Jiabao as premier in 2013. There is a general estimation that Hu might be delaying the induction of of Jinping, in order to allow Li, a former party boss of the Youth League, time to build up a power base at the top.

By way of background, Xi Jinping is an ethnic Han, native of Fuping, Shaanxi Province, northwestern part of China, born in June 1953. He is currently member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee, member of the Secretariat of the CPC Central Committee, and secretary of the CPC Shanghai Municipal Committee. He is someone who has risen from the rank over the years, having joined the Chinese Communist Party in 1974. However, he comes with his own baggage, to say. His father, Xi Zhongxun was a Long March hero who was banished during the Cultural Revolution. He was one of the leaders who was purged three times by Mao Zedong and later became a pro-market reformer. Later, he became one of the few leaders to defend Hu Yaobang, a progressive party chief sacked in 1986, as also to condemn the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre, after which he was rarely seen in public. However, it is reported that Jinping has strong credentials, from being an effective provincial leader to excellent administrator. Accordingly, he is believed to have been given high-profile assignments; overseeing the final preparations of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, being one among them. Besides, he is very popular within the party and he is essentially seen as a man of the masses. For a detailed profile, click here.

While Xinhua, the official news agency annunced the opening of the annual conclave, it made no mention of the leadership issues. It simply noted taht a draft document on "party building" -- issues ranging from recruitment for the 75 million-member CPC to fighting the corruption that has fuelled many protests -- will be discussed. Another report in the Wen Wei Po, a party-backed newspaper in Hong Kong, said that the meeting will also discuss on new measures that would require officials to declare their assets.

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