Monday, October 5, 2009

Article - Jiang Zemin's Unexpected Resurgence (60th Anniversary of PRC)

by Asia Sentinel - Willy Lam
Portraits of former Chinese leader Jiang Zemin (L) and current President Hu Jintao (R) hang in the People's Republic Of China 60th Anniversary Exhibition at the Beijing Exhibition Center on September 23, 2009 in Beijing, China. The grand celebrations to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China included a military parade and mass pageant consisting of about 200,000 citizens in Tian'anmen Square on October 1.

Ex-President Jiang's unexpected reappearance spells trouble for Hu Jintao – and for political stability in China

As the Chinese sayings go, a sky cannot hold two suns, nor can a mountain contain two tigers. Throughout last week's lavish celebrations of the PRC's 60th birthday, however, President Hu Jintao was forced to share the limelight with his predecessor, 83-year-old Jiang Zemin, who does not have even a single official position.
Many among China's 76 million Chinese Communist Party members were astounded to see that during CCTV's coverage of the much-heralded military parade, Jiang was on the TV screen no less than 22 times.

Moreover, as the "party and state leaders" appeared on the haloed rostrum of Tiananmen Square, the former president and chairman of the CCP Central Military Commission was second in the pecking order, behind Hu but ahead of all eight other members of the supreme Politburo Standing Committee.

Hu evidently felt being upstaged: the 67-year-old head of the party, state and army wore the sternest of expressions throughout the day's festivities. That there can be no mistaking Jiang's comeback was confirmed the day after: two photos of exactly the same size – Hu side-by-side with Jiang – graced the front page of the October 2 edition of People's Daily.

Jiang's sudden prominence has injected a discordant note into the carefully choreographed extravaganza that is supposed to highlight China's prowess and prosperity – and its readiness to embrace the world as a responsible stakeholder. While China is not noted for punctilious observation of legalities, the CCP propaganda machinery would be hard put to explain why an ordinary party member like Jiang can be classified as the nation's No 2 "party and state leader"?

Much more important, however, is the fact that the coexistence of two "leadership cores" will bedevil Chinese politics at least until the 18th CCP Congress scheduled for October 2012, when the "Fifth-Generation collective leadership" will be picked.

A party source in Beijing said while Jiang, who had yielded his CCP general secretary's slot to Hu in late 2002, was forced to vacate his military commission chairmanship two years later, the wily head of the Shanghai Faction still keeps a luxurious office at August 1 Building, the military commission headquarters in Beijing's western suburb. He has continued to read top-secret military documents and to hold tete-a-tetes with members of the top brass.

"Jiang's activities began to pick up in March last year, when Tibetans began to run wild in Tibet and four neighboring provinces," the source said. "The octogenarian began offering advice on how PLA and People's Armed Police generals should handle Tibet, and later, how the military should participate in reconstruction efforts in earthquake-ravaged Sichuan Province."

The Beijing source disclosed that the main reason why, after the July 5 bloodbath in Urumqi, Hu had to scurry back to China on the eve of the Group of Eight summit in Italy was to prevent Jiang from "trouble-making." For example, Jiang had all along told a few Politburo Standing Committee members that Hu's scorched-earth policies in Xijiang and Tibet would fail.

It is understood that Jiang has retained formidable clout within the top brass because most of the 10 generals sitting on the military commission owed their promotion to the Shanghai Faction honcho. Equally importantly, Jiang has evidently amassed a thick pile of "black materials" – or harmful dossiers – against Hu and his Communist Youth League clique.

Apart from the Hu clique's massive failures in maintaining "harmony" in Tibet and Xinjiang, Jiang and his Shanghai Faction cronies have decried how Hu has displayed favoritism while elevating scores of Youth League alumni to top party and government posts. Then there is innuendo about the possibly corrupt business activities of the children of several top Youth League clique affiliates. On foreign policy, Jiang is said to have been unhappy about Hu's apparent failure to score points through taking advantage of the early missteps of the Barack Obama Administration.

An unexpected victim of the clash of the two titans is Vice-President Xi Jinping. While as head of the so-called Gang of Princelings Xi is deemed closer to the Shanghai Faction than to the Youth League clique, the 56-year-old "crown prince" has been gravitating toward Hu to ensure the latter's blessings at the 18th Congress.

Xi's failure to be inducted into the military commission at the Fourth CCP Central Committee Plenum last month, however, shows that while the former Shanghai Party boss will succeed Hu as party general secretary in late 2012 – and state president soon afterwards – Hu will pull out all the stops to retain the military commission chairmanship for up to a full five-year term. After all, Jiang has shown too clearly that in China, there is nothing more crucial that securing control over the generals.

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