What to make of Qiu Xiaohua’s abrupt removal from his job as China’s chief statistician?
No one really knows for sure yet. Last week’s tersely worded Xinhua news agency item sounded an alarm bell that something was amiss. Word around Beijing is that Qiu will not be reassigned: he committed a “severe disciplinary violation” (‰∏•ÈáçËøùÁ∫™). But what? Certain Chinese reporters have heard that he’s accused of taking bribes. Others contend he fudged his numbers. Still others say that he sold real ones to foreigners. Regardless of what becomes of Qiu, most do agree that the supply-sider has had a big political problem: his bullish line on economic growth and freer markets sounded gratingly out of tune with that of the Hu-Wen leadership, complicating Beijing’s push to curb runaway state investment in the provinces.
With Qiu’s status still in limbo, a number of mainland media have flicked at the intrigue. Shanghai’s Oriental Morning Post, in a lengthy report, recounted how Qiu resisted further macroeconomic constraints; how he pushed for more open markets to help refine the country’s RMB exchange regime; and how he was dogged by allegations that he allowed localities to get away with underreporting their indicators. Qiu’s successor Xie Fuzhan, the 21st Century Economic Herald pointed out, promised to tow the central government line upon being promoted. It was Xie, the China Business News observed, who usually did more of the talking about macro-controls and overheating.
But Qiu’s not a dead duck yet. If only to be safe, this week’s Oriental Outlook Weekly magazine hedges accordingly. Qiu’s featured in the newest issue of the glossy, a Xinhua news agency vehicle, right at the top of an enlightening story about the reshuffling of certain provincial and ministerial officials in recent weeks. “Most of the realignments are normal movements ahead of the 17th Party Congress,” Central Party School Professor Ye Wuchu tells the magazine to start. Next the article proceeds to the case of Qiu.
The context provides safe cover for the one of the magazine’s racier political pieces in a while – which has yet to be uploaded online. Leadership buffs take note: rising prospect Zhou Qiang, the former head of the Communist Party Youth League newly transferred to the governor’s office in Hunan province, is pictured in a purple shirt and tie and quoted gushing over the homegrown TV sensation, “Super Girl”. Below we translate excerpts on Qiu and talk to an editor of Oriental Outlook about him…
Qiu, the magazine notes, worked for 24 years in the Stats bureau but held his job as director for just seven months, “The news appeared to be somewhat sudden.” The story goes on:
A department chief in the State Statistics Bureau told Oriental Outlook Weekly’s reporter that just that morning, Director Qiu had relayed the essence of the Sixth Plenum of the 16th CPC Central Committee at a meeting of the entire bureau. Then at 5 p.m., the [CPC Central] Organization Department announced to a meeting of office-level cadres that Xie Fuzhan was replacing Qiu Xiaohua, and that Qiu Xiaohua was removed from his post.
A doctorate degree holder in economics from Beijing Normal University, Qiu Xiaohua was regarded as a “star” in state statistics circles. He took up the post of State Statistics Bureau director in March at the age of 48.
In the early 1980’s, when Qiu Xiaohua arrived at the National Bureau of Statistics, he was only a university graduate in economics. Some colleagues still remember that at the time, Qiu Xiaohua would remain in the office after work to study. Because of his diligence and his outstanding work, in 1988, bypassing convention, he was promoted as the probationary director of the Comprehensive Department.
In 1991, Qiu Xiaohua made a name for himself in Chinese economics field with a single piece of writing, “Rethinking and Reviewing Three Years of Readjustment and Rectification”. The essay raised some reflections on the changes made after “panic buying” of 1988, stating bluntly, “The readjustment and rectification can be brought to a close; those problems that remain should be resolved by deepening reforms.”
The last time Qiu Xiaohua appeared in the public view was a full month before his removal. At a State Council Information Office news conference, Qiu Xiaohua stated that, following the publication of the “Green GDP” calculations, the National Bureau of Statistics also planned to bring out a happiness index, an overall development index, a regional innovation index as well as a social harmony index and other such new statistics, which instantly heated debate.
The story then elaborates on Xie’s credentials to fill Qiu’s shoes. The magazine does not directly compare the two men, but concludes the strain on Xie with what would appear to be an implicit critique of Qiu:
There are media analysts who say that his long-time research work means that Xie Fuzhan will be more capable of discovering problems from social phenomena and then go about verifying them through data, and not simply start from data and end with data, which leads to a big drop-off between conclusions and realities.
For some reason, Oriental Outlook Weekly has yet to post the story on the Internet. Biganzi rang up a top editor at the magazine in Shanghai to inquire about it:
Biganzi: Why isn’t the story on the Internet?
OOW Editor: We don’t post all of our material on the Internet right away. That would affect magazine sales. We put up a portion of stories, and do so at different stages. I’m not even sure myself what’s up right now.
Biganzi: You lead off with Qiu Xiaohua in a piece about personnel reshufflings. Does that mean he’s going to be taking up a new post?
OOW Ed: [Pause] Uhh, I don’t think that is very likely.
Biganzi: But he’s in this story?
OOW Ed: The story is about those officials who’ve drawn the most attention during the latest maneuvers. He’s definitely one of them.
Biganzi: So you took the opportunity to talk about Qiu in passing?
OOW Ed: That’s right. Because the government still has not made a clear-cut statement about him.
Biganzi: Will there be?
OOW Ed: Sooner or later, I think so.
Biganzi: And his problems involve politics or corruption or both?
OOW Ed: I don’t know.
Biganzi: You don’t know or can’t say?
OOW Ed: Don’t know.