China’s inner circle: The three black boxes

Xi Jinping

Xi Jinping

In Reuters analysis titled “Analysis of China’s next inner circle”, foreign media again shows its ignorance about China.

However, the ignorance is natural. There are three black boxes in China’s power centre. Elaborated description of them will be given in the second edition of my book “Tiananmen’s Tremendous Analysis”.

Even the first black box, the Politburo Standing Committee (PSC), is difficult enough to penetrate. No wonder it is so difficult for Chinese and foreign China watchers to see through.

The second black box, the group of powerful elders who are heads and important heavyweights of various factions are even more difficult to penetrate.

As a result, Reuters is only able to be correct in regarding Jiang Zemin’s “Shanghai Gang” as the dominant faction now, but it is entirely wrong in predicting that the “Tuanpai”, i.e. the Communist Youth League (CYL) faction will take over after five of Jiang’s protégés in the PSC retire in 2007.

Reuters says, “Of the 14 members in the 25-member Politburo eligible for another term in 2017, nine have worked in the Communist Youth League and are considered to be protégés or allies of Hu. Only five are known to have ties with Jiang.

“Communist Youth League experience is even more prevalent among provincial-level Party chiefs.”

In Chapter 7 of my book I said, “A high-ranking official usually appoints and promotes quite a lot of his people to official posts when he is in power. Those people together with the officials appointed and promoted by them are bound together by comradeship, friendship and common interests and aspiration and become a faction.”

Of course, Hu is fond of promoting people of CYL background, but whether those he promoted can form a faction united and combat strong is another question.

Required are not only common background and interest, but more importantly comradeship, friendship and common aspiration.

Even when Hu was in the office of the general secretary, he could not urge the CYL faction members he had promoted to pay attention to his priorities: corruption and pollution. As a result, Hu was attacked by Shanghai faction heavyweight Zhu Rongji in 2010 and 2011 for rampant official corruption throughout the nation.

Hu’s failure to rally those with CYL background around him is reflected in the problems he left behind for which he was blasted by the Deng Yewen, a senior editor of the Party mouthpiece Study Times on September 4, 2012.

In fact, Hu’s Scientific Outlook on Development has won Jiang’s support and at first he had the potential to become the leader of the Shanghai faction to succeed Jiang. However, he turned out incompetent to establish a team of competent associates to deal with the problems he was aware of and wanted to resolve.

Jiang’s strong point is his ability to discover talents and build up bondage with them. As a result, those who share the aspirations of Three Represents and Scientific Outlook on Development, including Li Keqiang, Xi Jinping, Wang Qishan, Yu Zhengsheng, etc. have all become his associates no matter what their origins are.

His faction has taken into it quite a few of the new generation of scholars with moral integrity, while we do not see that in any other factions.

Jiang’s is a faction with strong comradeship, friendship, common interest and aspiration and is therefore very strong, but it does not have a large number of members.

Hu’s CYL faction is large, but its members fail to share Hu’s interest and aspirations so that Hu will not become a powerful elder when he retires.

Hu’s lack of strength was obvious reflected during the election at the 18th Congress in his failures to promote his protégés Li Yuanchao and Wang Yang into the PSC or Zhou Qiang and Ling Jihua into the Politburo or even have his personal aide Chen Shiju elected a member or alternate member of CCP Central Committee.

Then there is the princeling faction.

Reuters says “A third group has also ascended rapidly – the princelings, or privileged children of revolutionary leaders. Key princelings include Xi and Politburo Standing Committee members Yu Zhengsheng, Wang Qishan and Zhang Dejiang.”

Princelings may form a group based on their origin, but a loose one without enough loyalty to the group. In fact, two of the heavyweights in the group Xi Jinping and Bo Xilai are deadly foes not because of their rivalry for succession, but due to their entirely different aspirations.

In fact, the Xi, Yu, Wang and Zhang mentioned by Reuters are all important members of Jiang’s Shanghai faction.

Will Xi Jinping be merely a consensus builder?

When Jiang Zemin was appointed the general secretary, most China watchers and even Zhao Ziyang regarded him as a transitional figure. Later, he was regarded as a consensus builder. However, they have now realized that Jiang remains the dominant core of the CCP’s third generation of collective leadership.

Is Xi Jinping a consensus builder? He was in the past, but in the future he has to be a strong consensus imposer instead of a helpless consensus seeker.

In early September, when the powerful elders were not able to reach consensus on the candidates for the PSC and Politburo, the manner to punish Bo Xilai or even the date of the 18th Congress, Xi was mysteriously absent to meet the powerful elders in secret and enabled them to have consensus on all those issues. Soon after Xi reappeared on September 15, Jiang Zemin came to Beijing and presided over a Politburo meeting to make decisions on all those issues including the tricky issue of punishing Bo Xilai harshly. Xi proved himself a talented consensus builder among his superiors.

Xi’s activities during his absence are described in the second edition of my book. As it will soon be published, I will not elaborate here. It is in fact too long for this post.

Xi is to deal with rampant corruption and purge the CCP to prevent the CCP’s collapse. If he is as weak a leader as Hu Jintao, he is doomed to failure. He has proved himself a competent leader and Jiang Zemin has made up his mind to let Xi succeed him as the core of the CCP collective leadership. Xi will have firm control of the party and state after he has purged the Party. By that time quite a few of his associates will appear as rising stars on China’s political scene.

Being well aware of that trend, Jiang made an arrangement that all five of the 18th PSC members appointed by him will retire at the 19th Congress.

The conservatives are the largest faction in number, but they do not have a leader who can rally them around him. Bo Xilai was their leader but he has fallen into disgrace. Tiananmen butcher Li Peng has become increasingly unpopular in the faction. He was given the cold shoulder at the 18th congress and his son got the least votes when elected as an alternative member of the CCP Central Committee. What a shame! Song Ping is the most senior member, but he is too old to lead the faction.

Qiao Shi’s legal faction remains strong. Qiao though a Presidium Standing Committee member, did not attend the 18th Congress, but two of his associates were active elders there. His faction, together with Wu Bangguo’s Shanghai faction, was the first to bring down Bo Xilai.

The secret security department similar to KGB in former Soviet Union is the third black box entirely impossible to penetrate.

For many years before his retirement, Qiao Shi had been in charge of China’s secret security department, an organization that plays the role of both CIA and FBI in China. He was in charge of spying on all the domestic officials. In China, an official in charge of this kind of job usually does not retire. No one knows whether Qiao retired from that position when he retired from all other government and CCP positions.

We all know that the secret security department including the secret police is a very powerful secret network. Its head performs his leadership mostly in secret. A top official may be spied on by him in secret and brought down when he has submitted to the PSC the evidence collected by him. In Russia, the communist party has lost power but the KGB remains powerful, and has one of its members serving as Russian president now.

Categories: Politics & Law

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4 replies


  1. China says western-style democracy impossible for CCP Dynasty | China Daily Mail
  2. Saving China with song | China Daily Mail
  3. A new female generation of “princesslings” in China? | China Daily Mail
  4. China: Exodus of central leaders’ children from the US could forebode war | China Daily Mail

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