Wang Yang, father of the “Happy” Guangdong Model and formerly mooted counterweight to Bo Xilai, was last month replaced as Guangdong Party chief by rising star Hu Chunhua. Having failed to win a seat on the reduced 7-man Politburo Standing Committee in November, Wang is now widely expected to become a vice premier in the spring. On New Year’s Day, at the South China Morning Post and on his own blog, Chang Ping argued that despite Wang’s reformist reputation, he left the province’s media wearing a tighter muzzle than it had previously:
Wang has become the poster boy for the reformist camp in the party and a darling of the media. His image as a reformer has endured even as the reputations of both Hu and Premier Wen Jiabao have taken a beating: over the past decade, Hu has shown himself willing to use repression to “maintain social stability”, no matter the damage to society and the political and legal systems, while Wen’s image as a clean and upright politician has suffered after the devastating media reports on his family’s wealth.
There’s no doubt Wang stands out among senior party officials for his quick mind and lack of affectation. He was expressive, and knew how to dress up bureaucratic rhetoric to make it more palatable. He should also be credited for creating some room for debate on reform with his call to “liberate people’s thinking” and his push to strengthen civil society.
But as a member of the Guangdong press, I saw how Wang set back the media during his five-year rule. Freedom of speech is the foundation of all political and democratic reform. From this perspective, we can hardly give his performance a good appraisal.
One of the strikes against Wang, Chang argues, is the appointment during his tenure
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