Beijing Mayor Resigns Ahead of Planned Promotion

Beijing Mayor Guo Jinlong and Vice Mayor Ji Lin have resigned. Wang Anshun, a Beijing Vice-Party Chief, will take over as acting mayor. The announcement was made at the end of the recent session of the Standing Committee of the 13th Beijing Municipal People’s Congress. Guo’s resignation was expected due to the fact that he was promoted to the more powerful position of Beijing Party Chief earlier this month. However, due to public anger over the recent Beijing floods, the timing has raised questions about the reasons for the move. Press reports so far indicate that his promotion appears to be going ahead as planned. From CBS News:

Mayor Guo Jinlong and one of his vice mayors resigned, state media reported Wednesday, in what is likely a routine reshuffling. The announcement came as more rain was forecast to hit Beijing and amid signs that the death toll from last weekend’s storms could jump higher.

Saturday’s massive flooding was a major embarrassment for China’s capital, which spent billions of dollars modernizing the city while apparently neglecting its drainage systems.

State media, analysts and China’s online community have piled on criticism of the city’s handling of the crisis and its lack of preparedness.

Saturday’s heavy rain was unusual in normally dry Beijing. On Wednesday evening, more heavy rain fell on the capital as forecast by the Beijing Meteorological Bureau, which warned of possible flash flooding and mudslides in the capital’s mountainous outskirts, including already hard-hit Fangshan.

And Reuters reports on Guo’s recent promotion:

Guo Jinlong, 64, the city’s mayor since 2008 and an ally of President Hu Jintao, replaces Liu Qi, 69, as Beijing party boss, in a decision announced at the end of the municipal party congress.

“We are keenly aware of our difficult task and grave responsibility,” Guo told reporters. “We must strive to deliver satisfactory results for all the people of Beijing.”

The appointment will allow Hu to retain some political influence after he leaves office. He must retire from running the party later this year and from the presidency in early 2013.

[...]

Guo is now expected to be a shoo-in to join the party’s decision-making Politburo during the leadership change at the 18th national party congress later this year.

For the Wall Street Journal’s China Real Time, Russell Leigh Moses questions the timing of the move, given the floods, with more torrential rains expected this week:

Guo was out front as the leading party official in seeing to the rescue and reconstruction efforts resulting from the flooding that brought scores of deaths and extensive damage to the city and its suburbs over the weekend. His earnest sympathy for victims, and willingness to share the recent bitterness by eating instant noodles just like everyone else involved in the rescue effort, received extensive media coverage in the aftermath of the tragedy.

So why have him step down when the job is not nearly half-done, and more heavy rain is expected in the coming days?

Is this some clever move by his supporters in the Party to shield him from further blame in the event many more bodies are waiting to be discovered in the debris or there is further disruption from flooding? Or is Guo going to be the local scapegoat, a sop to escalating outrage in the social media that Beijing authorities were unprepared for the scale of the flooding and might be holding back on the release of updated casualty figures?

Or was it simply that July 25 was the day the party had marked for Guo and Ji to resign, and the decision was made to keep that date no matter the circumstances.

News of the resignation has been censored on Sina Weibo search.

July 25, 2012 8:49 AM
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