Rising stars in China Party promise gentler growth

Two men widely tipped as future leaders of China gave glimpses of their agenda on Tuesday, promising gentler, more environmentally sound growth, a contrast with the get-rich-quick attitude of recent boom years.

But Shanghai Communist Party boss Xi Jinping and his counterpart in north-eastern Liaoning province, Li Keqiang, fended off or avoided questions about their own political futures, despite intense media interest.

Both stuck closely to President Hu Jintao’s key themes at a party congress which opened this week—the need for a “harmonious society” that spreads wealth more equally, and a “scientific outlook of development” that balances growth with environmental sustainability.

Still, neither even came close to suggesting China turn its back on the reforms that have made it into a global trading powerhouse and world’s fourth-largest economy. Growth was still vital to lift parts of the country from poverty, they said.

“In the process of promoting economic development, we must promote a harmonious society,” Li said at a delegation discussion on Hu’s opening speech to the congress.

“The goal of our development is for the people to enjoy the benefits of development,” added Li, looking relaxed as he fluently poured forth statistics, goals and slogans.

Xi, who was parachuted into his job earlier this year after predecessor Chen Liangyu was dramatically sacked for corruption, said glamorous and wealthy Shanghai would not forget its poorest and do more for the environment.

“Scientific development is all about people. We must pay more attention to people’s livelihoods ...
like disadvantaged groups, people in the countryside and others in difficult situations,” Xi told the session.

“Although Shanghai’s energy consumption versus economic growth fell by the third best margin in the country—a good result—we still have not completed the task as set by the central government,” he added.

Under Chen’s leadership, Shanghai snubbed central government efforts to cool the economy and rein in investment, and pushed a series of high profile projects, such as a Forumula One race track and high-tech magnetic levitation express train.

“Consumption is playing a bigger role in driving the economy than investment. Investment growth continues to fall to what we would expect. These are good changes,” said Xi, wearing a pair of trousers which appeared a bit too short for him.

Xi only spoke once at the meeting—to answer the question on Shanghai’s development—and left by a side door to avoid questions on his possible elevation later this week to China’s top echelon of power, the Standing Committee.

Li, also named by sources with close ties to the leadership as a potential premier or president in 2012, brushed off queries about his future.

“We’re following procedures and answering questions about Comrade Hu Jintao’s report to the congress,” Li said, while his colleagues giggled nervously.

Another rising star, Guangdong province’s North Korea-trained economist party chief Zhang Dejiang, was equally circumspect.

“Guangdong is a great place, and full of hope. I love Guangdong and will not forget Guangdong,” a smiling Zhang told a throng of reporters who surrounded him and asked about his future, overturning tables in the scrum to reach him.

Politburo profiles

Hu Jintao: Paramount leader of the People’s Republic of China

Born in Anhui in 1942, Hu Jintao joined the CPC during the Cultural Revolution, whilst studying hydroelectric engineering at Qinghua University. He began his working life in Gansu province, rapidly progressing in the Ministry of Water, Conservancy and Power. As his political career took off, at first serving in the Youth League, then later acting as party chief for Tibet and Guizhou, he gained experience working in some of China’s poorest regions. In 1992 he become the youngest ever member of the CPC central committee. He has been general secretary since 2002, president of China since 2003 and in 2004 succeeded Jiang Zemin as chairperson of the central military commission. His coming to power has marked the transition of Chinese rule from old-style communism to a technocracy.

Wen Jiabao: Member of the standing committee of the politburo of the CPC central committee and premier of the state council

Wen Jiabao, the Chinese premier, is from Tianjin and joined the CPC in 1965. After studying geology to post-graduate level at the Beijing Institute of Geology, Wen Jiabao began a political career in this field and was eventually made vice-minister of geology and mineral resources. He continued to ascend to the higher ranks of the party, but not without the occasional hiccough. In 1989 he famously accompanied then-party secretary Zhao Ziyang to Tiananmen Square to visit the students on hunger strike. Zhao was forced to leave the party immediately, but Wen survived the incident. In his current role as premier, he has overseen the country’s economic reforms and is popular with the people.

Zeng Qinghong: Vice-president of the People’s Republic of China

From the Ji’an, Jiangxi province, Zeng Qinghong was part of the elite “princelings”, children of veteran Communist party revolutionaries. His father, Zeng Shan, was a Red Army veteran, who went on to become minister of internal affairs, then vice-mayor of Shanghai. Zeng trained as an engineer at the Beijing Institute of Technology and began his working life as a technician in military defence, performing manual duties during the Cultural Revolution at the Chikan and Xihu bases in Hunan province. He later entered politics and gained experience in various ministries, before encountering Jiang Zemin when he was employed as Shanghai party secretary. His work there for Jiang significantly aided his accession in the party.

Jia Qinglin: Chairperson of the 10th national committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference

Jia Qinglin is a native of Hebei. He studied manufacturing at Hebei Engineering College and began his political life in the ministry of industry. He moved on to work in Fujian province and became head of the party in the area in 1993. He was brought in to act as mayor of Beijing from 1996, leading the city in celebrations to mark the 50th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China. In his current role he has little power.

Huang Ju: (deceased) Member of the standing committee of the politburo of the CPC central committee and vice-premier of the state council

Huang Ju was from Jiashan, Zhejiang. He graduated from the department of electrical machinery engineering at Tsinghua University. His began his professional life in 1963 as a technician, quickly climbing the ranks and working in industry for many years. Once in politics he showed loyal support for Jiang Zemin, and was made mayor of Shanghai in 1991 and the party chief of the city in 1994. His daughter caused controversy by choosing a husband with pro-Taiwan links. Huang died in June whilst still serving, aged 69.

Li Changchun: Member of the standing committee of the politburo of the CPC central committee

Li Changchu is from the industrial province of Liaoning. He studied electrical engineering then worked at factories in Shenyang. He has been fast-tracked up the political ranks, becoming the youngest ever mayor of a major city and the youngest member of the politburo, beating Hu’s record. His work within the committee is said to be related to propaganda.

Wu Bangguo: Chairperson of the standing committee of the 10th National People’s Congress

Like Hu, Wu Bangguo was also from the Anhui region and studied engineering at Qinghua. He joined the communist party in 1964, and began his career at factories in Shanghai. He was recruited to work for the party and in 1983 was appointed secretary of the science and technology commission in Shanghai. Another protégé of Jiang Zemin, he joined the politburo with Hu in 1992. He was made chairperson of the standing committee of the National People’s Congress in 2003.

Wu Guanzheng: Member of the standing committee of the politburo of the CPC central committee, and secretary of the central commission for discipline inspection

From Yugan in Jiangxi province, Wu Guanzheng is another member of the standing committee who studied engineering at Qinghua. After university he worked at the Gedian chemical plant in Wuhan before entering politics. He returned to Wuhan as mayor and joined the standing committee of the politburo in 1997. He currently acts as head of the anti-corruption body.

Luo Gan: Member of the standing committee of the politburo of the CPC central committee, state councillor, member of the leading party member group of the state council and secretary of the political and legislative affairs committee of the CPC central committee

Luo Gan is originally from Shandong and initially studied in Beijing before attending the Freiburg Institute of Mining and Metallurgy in Germany. On graduating he worked at steel plants in Germany before returning to China. After working in industry he crossed into politics, acting as chief of the party in Hunan in the 1980s. In 1998 he joined the politburo standing committee in a law-enforcing role. - Reuters, Guardian Unlimited Â

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