10/22/2007, 00.00
CHINA

Hu Jintao consolidates his power as 17th Party Congress ends

Fifth generation party leaders join the politburo. Hu’s party line comes out strengthened in Central Committee—the Shanghai Clique and other factions maintain their power. Religion is cited in an amendment to the constitution.

Beijing (AsiaNews) – The new politburo, which will lead China over the next five years, was presented today amidst the applause of party congress delegates and the media. The composition of the all-powerful nine-member Standing Committee of the Politburo as well as that of the 204 full-member (with 167 alternate member) Central Committee indicates that Hu loyalists are dominant but do not yet in total control of those bodies.

The new politburo now includes two rising stars: Communist Party (CPC) Liaoning Province Committee Secretary and Hu loyalist Li Keqiang, 52, and the new CPC Shanghai Municipal Committee Secretary Xi Jinping, 54. Both belong to the CPC’s fifth generation and are likely to be the leading contenders for the top leadership when Hu, who was re-elected party secretary general till 2012, retires.

The other two new Politburo Standing Committee members are He Guoqiang, the top party official in charge of the fight against corruption, and Zhou Yongkang, minister of public security. They replace on grounds of age Vice President Zeng Qinghong, Luo Gan and Wu Guanzhen. Another position was left vacant during the summer when Huang Ju died.

Wen Jiabao, Wu Bangguo (chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress), Jia Qinglin (chairman of the People's Political Consultative Conference.) and Li Changchun (head of propaganda) were re-elected.

The other three are still thought to be close to former President Jiang Zemin’s “Shanghai Clique.”

The presence of Jia Qinling, a Jiang’s protégé involved in major economic scandals, shows the limits of Hu Jintao’s power and the constraints on his fight against corruption.

Jia, 67, could have been retired given his age, which is what happened to Zeng (another Jiang protégé), but the fact that he is staying on shows that Hu will have to share power and carefully take into account other views.

Equally significant, whilst Hu successfully got the congress to change the constitution to include his concept of ‘Scientific Development,’ which purports to find a balance between economic growth, agricultural development and environmental protection,  he failed to get delegates to adopt his concept of ‘Harmonious Society,’ whereby generated wealth would be redistributed in favour of the poorer segments of society.

Despite such shortcomings, the fact that at least one of his ideas were incorporated into the constitution shows that during his five-year tenure as general secretary he has risen to the level of a Mao, a Deng or a Jiang.

Hu loyalists in fact now represent more than 50 per cent of the membership in the Central Committee. And of the 204 Central Committee members voted in yesterday, about 30 per cent were born after 1950, moving up the ladder starting in the Communist Youth League.

A delegate revealed that 221 candidates competed for those 204 spots, an electoral margin of 7.7 per cent, up from about 5 per cent in the previous congress, but far short from what many demanded.

The Central Committee permanent membership includes army generals, business people and bank residents as well as 13 women (24 alternate members).

For the first time in the history of the CPC, religion is mentioned in the amended constitution “to strengthen [. . .] the work related to ethnic and religious affairs.” But it is unclear whether that represents a change in party policy or not.

News about the congress have been largely received with indifference by the population at large because it will not change anything.

An elderly man who tried to hand in a petition to congress members was arrested.

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