Old Boss Wants to Become New Boss

As the 18th Party Congress draws near, former leader Jiang Zemin is believed to be wielding his clout behind the scenes. A recent appearance at a concert once again stirred up curiosity from the public. From Zhang Jie and Keith B. Richburg at The Washington Post:

[…] China-watchers – and the active community of Internet users on Twitter-like microblogging sites known as “weibo” — took considerable interest in photos of Jiang that suddenly appeared on overseas Chinese Web sites this week, attending a recent concert at Beijing’s National Center for the Performing Arts, affectionately called “The Egg.”

[…] But China’s ubiquitous Internet censors have tried to squash the swirling speculation by blocking Jiang’s names from the weibo search engines. The photos only appeared on overseas Chinese media Web sites.

But that hasn’t stopped China’s Netizens from talking, mostly by using more oblique references, like; “Old comrade and his wife went to a concert.”

Some analysts read Jiang’s public appearances as a sign of his desire for continued influence over policy and personnel consulting. From Cary Huang at South China Morning Post:

There has been much speculation that Jiang’s influence may eclipse that of current general secretary Hu Jintao in the new leadership line-up , as members of Jiang’s faction and their allies seem to be gaining an upper hand in the contest for seats on the next Politburo Standing Committee, the party’s top power echelon.

[…] There are suggestions the next standing committee will have only seven members, down from nine at present. Top contenders for those posts include Shanghai party boss Yu Zhengsheng, vice-premier and Chongqing party chief Zhang Dejiang and Vice-Premier Wang Qishan; all three come either from the Shanghai faction or are princelings – Jiang’s power base.

“Jiang’s Shanghai faction allied with the princelings to rival the populist group led by Hu and Premier Wen Jiabao after what they saw as the failures of governance in the current administration,” said Zhang Lifan, who was a historian at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, one of the nation’s top think tanks.

Jiang is not the only old boss who wants his say. See Jeremy Page at WSJ:

Mr. Jiang isn’t the only elder statesman to re-enter the political fray. Three others have published books this year, including 87-year-old Qiao Shi, a former rival of Mr. Jiang who is also thought to have played a part in discussions on the Bo scandal, according to the party insiders.

[…] As top Chinese leaders step down earlier—based on an unofficial retirement age of 68 introduced in 2002—many of them are around longer after leaving office and using their unofficial powers and contacts to play a more active, and visible, role in political discourse.

The result is an increasingly ungainly decision-making system that makes it harder to achieve consensus on the economic and political reforms needed to balance rapid growth and social stability, analysts say. Policy-making has been paralyzed for much of this year as retired and departing leaders scheme to ensure promotion of protégés who can preserve their political influence and protect their family interests for the next decade.

[…] Mr. Qiao, considered a relative moderate, has long advocated strengthening the rule of law and published a book in June that focused on his efforts between 1985 and 1998 to strengthen the legal system and the national parliament—a move that some analysts saw as an attempt to highlight the weakening of those institutions over the last decade.

See more on Jiang Zemin via CDT.