Leaked diplomatic cables from late 2007, newly released by Wikileaks, shed some light on the processes by which next year’s leadership succession was determined, as well as some juicier though perhaps less substantial morsels. From Aftenposten:
Anointing Xi and Li as China´s next leaders largely determines the outlines of Chinese elite politics for the next fifteen years. In the end, Xi Jinping was reportedly ranked ahead of Hu Jintao protege Li Keqiang because of Xi´s broad acceptability within the Party. The support Xi garnered from Party elders and “princelings” as the son of well-respected early revolutionary Xi Zhongxun and a desire to check the influence of Hu Jintao and the Communist Youth League (CYL) were also important factors in his rise. One source claimed that Hu Jintao himself put forward Xi Jinping´s name as the leading fifth generation PBSC member after his first choice Li Keqiang ran into opposition from Party elders ….
Immediately following the unveiling of the new leaders on October 22, [TEXT REMOVED BY AFTENPOSTEN], an official in [TEXT REMOVED BY AFTENPOSTEN] with close ties to Central Party School officials, told Poloff that the overriding message of the lineup was that it is “super stable” and represents a “highly appropriate balance” of competing Party interests. [TEXT REMOVED BY AFTENPOSTEN] separately agreed, commenting on November 1 that the new lineup, particularly the selection of the “princeling” Xi Jinping balanced by Hu protege and former CYL head Li Keqiang, provides “something for everyone,” thereby guaranteeing relative harmony among competing Party factions for at least the next five years ….
The decision to elevate former Shanghai Party Secretary Xi Jinping to the PBSC, and to rank him ahead of purported Hu Jintao favorite Li Keqiang, was due in large part to the broadly favorable opinion toward Xi within the Party, according to a number of contacts. [TEXT REMOVED BY AFTENPOSTEN] told Poloff on October 26 that Xi´s support within the Party was demonstrated in part by a “straw poll” carried out at the Central Party School on June 25, immediately after Hu Jintao delivered his speech there previewing his Congress Political Report.
The Australian reveals the leaked cables’ other contents, including strained family relations, sex and espionage, and the secret Buddhism of Jiang Zemin:
Mr Wen [Jiabao] was one of the few popularly respected Chinese politicians, but the cable claimed he was “disgusted by his family’s activities. Wen’s wife and children all have a reputation as people who can ‘get things done’ at the right price.”
It added: “Although they did not necessarily take bribes, they are amenable to receiving exorbitant ‘consulting fees’ or selling inferior diamonds at a significant mark-up. He particularly dislikes his wife for her brazenness in trading on his name.”
The cables document the rumoured affairs of high-ranking Party members, including three who were involved with the same “promiscuous socialite”:
“The woman had been introduced to these men as ‘someone working with a Chinese military intelligence department’,” the cable said.
Unfortunately, she was believed to be “a Taiwan intelligence operative”. The documents do not relate her identity or her fate.
The rumoured affair seems to have damaged the careers of all three men. Jin resigned in 2007 after rumours of a sex scandal, Chen was given a suspended death sentence for bribery in 2009 and Du resigned abruptly in 2006.
See also: Reuters’ Special Report: Cables Show U.S. Sizing up China’s Next Leader (based in part on the same cables, which Reuters had acquired through a third party), and WikiLeaks Cables: ‘Aggressive’ China Losing Friends Around the World, via CDT.