Caixin Post on Leadership Leaks Ordered Removed

On Wednesday, Caixin published a blog post containing excerpts from three Wikileaked diplomatic cables from 2007. The cables described Hu Jintao’s secret visits to political gatherings at the resort town of Beidaihe, the president’s perceived weakness, rumours of corruption in Wen Jiabao’s family, plans to shrink the Politburo Standing Committee, and impatience with Jiang Zemin’s lingering interference.

The site was subsequently ordered to remove the post, or be blocked:

The original URL now returns an “Illegal Operation” error message. A copy of the post is available here (PDF), however, and is partially reproduced below.

… [When] President Hu Jintao decided to cancel the annual summer Party gatherings at Beidaihe in 2003, state media trumpeted the decision as a sign that Hu was leading China is a more practical and frugal direction. But many analysts also smelled another connotation: Hu was trying to signal a break from the older generation of party cadres led by his predecessor Jiang Zemin.

But the ban wasn’t a complete ban, most clearly evidenced by the fact that in the weeks after the controversial July 23 Wenzhou train crash happened last year, many Politburo Standing Committee leaders were noticeably absent from their offices. In fact, they were at Beidaihe, deliberating China’s leadership transition in 2012 after the 18th Party Congress.

In the process of trying to understand how frequently President Hu has visited Beidaihe, in spite of his rejection of the site, we came across a cache of U.S. embassy dispatches from the Wikileaks database concerning China’s 2007 Beidaihe discussions.

With the 2012 leadership transition on the horizon, the cables also hint at the possible debates, conflicts and power struggles that China’s political elite will be dealing with this coming summer.

SUBJECT: HU JINTAO ATTENDING BEIDAIHE MEETINGS TO DISCUSS LEADERSHIP ISSUES, CONTACTS SAY (CABLE 07BEIJING5139)

From the American embassy in Beijing to the Secretary of State, August 7, 2007.

Hu’s Beidaihe Visits a “Secret”

Commenting on Hu Jintao’s cancellation of the Beidaihe meetings since 2003 as a way of conveying a more open, pragmatic style of leadership (Refs C-E), Yu [Jiafu, recently retired Senior Editor and Director General of Foreign Affairs at Xinhua] said his understanding was that this would be at least the second year after 2003 that Hu would “quietly” attend meetings at Beidaihe. Yu thought the prior “cancellation” of the meetings referred only to ending the previous practice of moving large portions of the Party and Government to Beidaihe for the summer, as had been done under Hu’s predecessors, whereas Hu’s attendance was solely for the purpose of attending meetings on personnel issues. Whatever the case, any travel by Hu to Beidaihe would likely remain a “secret,” and Party propaganda organs would do their utmost to prevent his travel from becoming public, Yu speculated.

SUBJECT: MORE DETAILS ON BEIDAIHE MEETINGS (07SHANGHAI549)

From the American consulate in Shanghai to the Secretary of State, August 7, 2007.

“During an August 27 discussion, Nanjing University Professor Gu Su discussed rumors he had heard from his contacts in Beijing concerning the ongoing leadership meetings at Beidaihe”

“Hu’s passivity”

Gu assessed the current leadership situation as “more unstable that it has been in years.” He blamed this primarily on Hu’s failure to establish his independent leadership earlier on in his term. Hu had continued to consult Jiang on many issues even after Jiang’s full retirement, perpetuating a tradition of quasi-subservience that had enabled Jiang to retain some influence. Jiang’s influence, in other words was not necessarily based on his strength, but rather on Hu’s passivity, relative weakness, and failure to make necessary changes earlier on. As a result, the various factions all had a stronger voice than they had had in the run-up to previous party congresses.

Wen’s ‘long tail’

Gu noted that Hu’s family was apparently free from rumors of corruption, making him relatively impervious to retaliatory investigations. Premier Wen’s family—particularly his two children—on the other hand, was involved in many questionable dealings. Gu noted that this familial corruption—which Gu referred to as Wen’s “long tail”—left Wen more vulnerable to attack. Wen had recently been complaining about criticism he had faced from party leftists that mingled both criticism of his policies with criticism of his famil.

SUBJECT: BEIDAIHE ENDS WITHOUT RESOLUTION (07SHANGHAI508)

From the American consulate in Shanghai to the Secretary of State, August 7, 2007.

Shrinking the Politburo Standing Committee

Gu said that his contacts had told him that the Politburo Standing Committee (PBSC) would probably shrink, noting that Hu preferred a seven person PBSC. The smaller PBSC, Hu believed, was easier to control.

[editor’s note: the PBSC did not actually shrink from nine to seven members]

Former Chinese President Jiang Zemin criticized.“You’ve been retired now for five years!”

According to Gu, Party elder and Jiang critic Li Ruihuan was chairing the meeting and fellow party elder and Jiang critic Qiao Shi was the main speaker. Qiao tore into Jiang, accusing him of meddling in personnel decisions and exceeding his authority for submitting his suggested PBSC name list. Qiao upbraided Jiang at one point saying “You’ve been retired now for five years! How can you presume to be trying to arrange the new Politburo Standing Committee?” Qiao accused Jiang of having “broken the rules” at the 16th Party Congress by expanding the PBSC and packing so many of his supporters onto the Politburo, particularly so many–such as Huang Ju and Chen Liangyu–who had such serious problems. Qiao firmly stated “We cannot allow you to do this again!” Later, Qiao also reprimanded Jiang for having broken protocol and brought his wife to Huang Ju’s funeral, noting that none of the other leaders had brought their wives. Qiao asked “What were you doing? Were you trying to show your intimacy with Huang’s family?” Jiang reportedly left the meetings severely chastened and unhappy.