Leadership Changes Ahead of Party Congress

Changes in the CCP leadership are being cemented as the 18th Party Congress draws closer. Ling Jihua, an ally of outgoing President and Party General Secretary Hu Jintao, was removed from his powerful post as director of the General Office of the CPC Central Committee and put in charge of the United Front Work Department, an indication that he may not join the Politburo Standing Committee as many expected. Ling was replaced by former Guizhou Party Secretary Li Zhanshu, another Hu ally. From Bloomberg:

The personnel changes may be part of political jockeying ahead of the party’s 18th Congress, where China’s leaders will pick a new generation to rule the world’s most-populous nation for the next decade. The appointments mean that Ling may not secure a spot on the party’s Politburo at the congress, said Joseph Fewsmith, director of the Center for the Study of Asia at Boston University.

“I think it was a swap, a Hu ally for a Hu ally, but not an equal swap,” Fewsmith, who focuses on China’s elite politics, said in an e-mail. “Ling was a very viable candidate for the Politburo, Li is not.”

The Australian also looks at the significance of the swap  and at the potential makeup of the incoming Politburo Standing Committee [PBSC]:

Only one other member of the PBSC, Li Keqiang – who is slated to replace Wen Jiabao as premier – will remain, with the seven other members retiring.

“The new guy has good relations with Hu Jintao and also has ties with the new incoming leader,” Bill Bishop, author of The Sinocism China Newsletter, told AFP. “He will be an extremely influential person in Beijing. The party general secretary needs someone like this who is competent and can be trusted. More importantly, this is really an indication that things are on track and that the next party congress is reasonably imminent.”

 While the dates for the Party Congress meetings have not been publicly announced, the Irish Times reports that the meetings are likely to take place between October 15-18.

As the change in Ling Jihua’s position was announced, the South China Morning Post ran an exclusive report confirming rumors that Ling’s son, Ling Gu, had been the driver who was killed in a mysterious crash of a Ferrari in the middle of the night in Beijing in March. At the time of the crash, all news about it was blacked out, leading netizens to speculate over the identity of the driver. According to the SCMP report, Lin was killed, while his two female companions, one Uyghur and one Tibetan, were injured. From the New York Times blog:

The car was a black Ferrrari, and Ling Gu, the son, was said to be driving. Two young women with him in the car — “one naked, one semi-naked,” the story said — were seriously injured. The story said one woman was a Uighur, the other a Tibetan.

After the crash, The Morning Post said, citing an unnamed mainland official, “an elaborate scheme was painstakingly stitched together to hide the real identity of the tragic young man in the crash. The name that eventually appeared on the death certificate of the driver was a fake.”

“People will ask how Ling Gu could have afforded a 5 million yuan luxury sports car in the first place,” the paper said, judging the Ferrari to be worth $788,000. “And it will only confirm the public belief that the children of senior officials have rich and decadent lifestyles beyond the wildest dreams of the people.”

Immediately following the crash, a number of related terms were blocked from Sina Weibo search, including:

  • Prince Ling (令公子): son of Ling Jihua
  • Little Ling (小令): son of Ling Jihua
  • high-speed + car sex (高速+车震)
  • car crash + car sex (车祸+车震)

Read more about the upcoming Party Congress via CDT.