Who is Zhang Dejiang?

Amid the tidal wave of coverage surrounding today’s dismissal of embattled Chongqing party chief Bo Xilai, Xinhua News provides a brief biography of his successor, Zhang Dejiang:

Zhang, born in November 1946, is a native of Tai’an, Liaoning province. He became a member of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee in 2002 and began serving as vice premier of the State Council, China’s Cabinet, from 2008.

Zhang had previously served as Party chief in Jilin, Zhejiang and Guangdong provinces, respectively, between 1995 and 2007.

BBC News profiled Zhang among the eight Chinese leaders it flagged as “faces to watch” ahead of this month’s National People’s Congress, and pointed out that he came under fire as party secretary of Guangdong when the government was slow to respond to the SARS crisis that broke out in the province in 2003. Most recently, Zhang presided over the relief effort and investigation following the high-speed rail disaster in eastern Zhejiang’s Wenzhou.

Bloomberg Businesweek has more on Zhang’s background – he graduted from North Korea’s Kim Il Sung University with an economics degree – and the decision to install him as the new head of Chongqing’s government:

Zhang, a 65-year-old native of northeastern Liaoning province, rose to prominence under former President Jiang Zemin. He is in charge of areas including industrial production, transport and energy, according to the official Xinhua News Agency. He also meets foreign business leaders, including International Business Machines Corp. (IBM) Chief Executive Officer Virginia Rometty, who met him last month in China’s leadership compound in central Beijing.

The choice of Zhang to replace Bo, whose removal was the strongest rebuke of a Politburo member in at least five years, is a signal that China’s leadership trusts him to take a difficult job. Zhang has been mentioned by analysts including Li Cheng at Washington’s Brookings Insitution as a candidate for the Politburo Standing Committee, the group, now with nine people, that exercises supreme authority in China. The party is set to pick a new standing committee later this year.

“In terms of economic policy and most likely any political reform he’s not known as a reform-oriented person, but has a reputation of being very steady wherever he serves,” said Victor Shih, a political economist at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. “Part of the reason why he has been assigned to Chongqing is that he will provide relatively steady leadership to a city in turmoil.”


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