Incoming Chinese president Xi Jinping has chosen reformer Li Yuanchao as his vice president, according to sources, despite former president Jiang Zemin’s preference for propaganda chief Liu Yunshan to win the post. From Reuters:
Leadership changes in China are thrashed out behind closed doors through horse-trading between new leaders and outgoing or retired leaders anxious to preserve their influence and protect family interests, but reshuffles must go through a choreographed selection process.
Two other sources, who declined to be identified because it is sensitive to discuss elite politics with foreign media, also confirmed that Xi had decided to make Li his vice president rather than Liu.
The National People’s Congress, China’s rubber-stamp parliament, will vote in Xi and Li as president and vice president respectively on March 14. Li Keqiang, the party’s new No.2 official, will succeed Wen Jiabao to become premier and oversee the economy and day-to-day running of the cabinet.
“It was Xi’s decision and a sign he is strong and able to say ‘no’ to Jiang,” the source told Reuters
Reuters adds that Li’s promotion may also indicate Xi’s willingness to pursue limited reforms. But while he has taken steps to increase the inefficiency and tone down the extravagance of the Chinese government, and even said that the government should tolerate “sharp criticism”, a leaked speech from December also dampened expectations of more substantive political reforms.
Noted political theorist Wu Jiaxiang, however, is keeping the faith that Xi can deliver on reform expectations. From an interview with Hong Kong’s Yazhou Zhoukan, via the China Media Project:
YZZK: Those internal speeches by Xi Jinping have created a lot of dissatisfaction. How do [you] view this?
Wu Jiaxiang: My guess is that this is about [addressing] a sense among some prominent old politicians that says basically, look, this Xi Jinping cares only about Deng Xiaoping, he has no use for us — he denies Mao Zedong, he doesn’t mention Jiang Zemin, he talks even less about Hu Jintao. I believe Xi Jinping’s speech at the Central Party School already marked a major compromise, a huge back-step in comparison to how much Deng Xiaoping was willing to give. Deng Xiaoping essentially yielded nothing to the Cultural Revolution faction. Xi Jinping made this [compromise] because he recognised the fact that the Cultural Revolution faction had already made a comeback, that, moreover, this comeback was quite substantial, like a bunch of walking dead if you will. Faced with this situation, how could a General Secretary who has just come to power declare war against these monsters?
A wise politician won’t declare war before they’ve even managed to accomplish something. [Xi Jinping] has a major strategic consideration, and that is to first ensure that this year’s meetings of the National People’s Congress and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference proceed smoothly. If he didn’t compromise, this would instantly drive a major wedge in the Party. The ripples would run across the internet and through the Party ranks. So Xi Jinping must seek the greatest common denominator. He must find broad consensus — and that comes on the issue of the past thirty years of reform, which no side rejects outright.
[…] It might be that he talks about some things he won’t necessarily do. He may also do things he doesn’t necessarily talk about. There may also be things he’s thinking about that he can neither say nor do. This administration is like an iceberg, and right now we see maybe one-eighth. There are still seven-eighths we haven’t seen yet.