A Brief Biography of Wang Yang by Keren Wang
Important dates:11. Born 1955, graduated from University of Science and Technology of China with a Master’s degree in engineering.
"Born into a poor rural family in eastern Anhui province, Wang dropped out of high school to help support his family after his father died, going to work in a food factory aged 17; experiences likely to have shaped his desire for more socially inclusive policies, including a push to engender a "Happy Guangdong" model of development to improve peoples' lives. As with Wen, Wang's humble upbringing contrasts with the so-called "princelings" or privileged offspring of former Chinese Communist leaders or military top brass, including ousted party heavyweight Bo Xilai and leader-in-waiting Xi Jinping. "That's very important," said Cheng Li, an expert on Chinese politics at the Brookings Institution think-tank in Washington. "This is the difference between Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, in terms of background."" (Sui-Lee Wee and James Pomfret, Wang Yang: reformist credentials tested by Chinese system, Reuters, September 24, 012)
2. In 2005, he served as the CPC Chongqing Committee Secretary, In 2007 Wang was succeeded as Chongqing party chief by Bo Xilai.
3. Since 2007, he has been serving as the CPC Guangdong Committee Secretary, which is the Party Chief of Guangdong Province.Guangdong can be seen China’s “California”-- it is the most populous and economically significant province in China, with a population over 100 million. If Guangdong is an independent country, it would be the 18th largest economy in the world. In 2007, he also became a member of the Central Politburo. It is widely speculated that he will be promoted to the Politburo Standing Committee in November 2012.
The early speculation on Wang’s potential rise to the top began in 2007, right before CCP's 17th Central Committee Plenary Session, when media prediction his election into the Central Politburo and, potentially to the Politburo Standing Committee in the future.2 This is due to the fact that Wang Yang’s track record as Chongqing’s Party chief earned him considerable national attention. During his tenure in Chongqing, he engaged in rapid urban development, while sensitively handled the issue of urban population relocation. In recent years eminent domain (拆迁)has been a contentious social issue in China, as local governments are rapidly acquiring old urban areas for redevelopment. Wang Yang not only allowed relatively open media coverage on the controversies related to government acquisition of land in Chongqing, but also successfully solved many prominent land-dispute cases in Chongqing,3 which greatly enhanced Wang’s populist appeal.
In 2007, Wang Yang became a member of the CPC Central Committee, and was tapped to serve as the Party chief of Guangdong province. Bo Xilai succeeded Wang Yang as the Party chief of Chongqing. As the Party Chief of Guangdong (de-facto #1 person in the Guangdong government), Wang Yang performed remarkably in terms of economic development (see the figure below from the Wall Street Joural)
(Source: Bob Davis, In Chinese Politics, a Fall—and a Rise: Ouster of Party Leader Bo Xilai Appears to Boost Fortunes of Longtime Rival, a Province Chief That West Sees as Reformer, Wall Street Journal, July 28, 2012:
Though mostly focusing on economic development, many speculate that Wang Yang might also be a proponent for political reforms. Two things stand out:
1. His safe handling of the Wukan incident in 2011-12 received significant media attention. The Wukan incident began with land disputes between several villagers and the leaders of Wukan municipality. In 2011, after the surreptitious death of a petitioner from Wukan, large protests broke out in Wukan and the angry villagers tried to siege the municipality government. But there are still issues here: In "China's most famous testing ground for greater democracy, the southern fishing village of Wukan where a violent standoff over government land seizures led last year to the sacking of local leaders and elections. On the first anniversary of the Wukan uprising in September, more than 100 villagers rallied outside Wukan's party offices to protest against what they saw as slow progress by their newly elected village committee to return seized land. Some critics say the committee was outmaneuvered by higher party officials " China: Grassroots democracy challenges new leaders, The Times of India, Oct. 29, 2012.
2. Not only did Wang allowed relatively open media coverage on the incident, he also made compromise with the villagers and allowed the Wukan residents to elect their new leaders through open election. Apparently the U.S. consul in Guangzhou was permitted to observe Saturday’s election.4
Since 2007, both Wang and Bo have became China’s top “political starts”, and both are running open campaigns for a seat in the Politburo Standing Committee. However, Wang Yang’s ‘liberal’, ‘populist’ and ‘pro-business’ style of leadership poses a stark contrast with Bo Xilai’s ‘statist’, ‘patriotic’ and heavy-handed approach.
In March, 2012, People’s Daily ran an article on reform featuring comments from both Wang and Bo. In that article, Bo said reform should be based on the “core socialist principles”, and that the most important is to ensure “equality among the people”. Wang, on the other side, maintained that reform “should focus on both the ruling Party and People’s government”, and “every level of Party government organs should able to represent the will and the interest of the people.”5
In May, 2012, during the meeting of the Guangdong Province Eleventh Congress of the Chinese Communist Party, Wang Yang made a speech that grabbed much national attention. In the speech Wang warned against the danger of the Party “separating from the masses”, and voiced his concern on the intermingling interest between government and private businesses. He also stressed that serving the people is the basic duty of the government, and “we must do away with the misconception that happiness of the people is the give (or blessing) from the Party and the government”.
NOTES:1. Biography of Wang Yang, Xinhua. http://news.xinhuanet.com/ziliao/2005-12/26/content_3969021.htm.2. Asia Times, “Wang Yang: a rising star in China”. http://www.atimes.com/atimes/China/IE03Ad02.html3 Xinhua, “被网友称为“最牛”的重庆“钉子户”与开发商达成和解”. http://www.cq.xinhuanet.com/news/2007- 04/03/content_9684267.htm 1 Biography of Wang Yang, Xinhua. http://news.xinhuanet.com/ziliao/2005-12/26/content_3969021.htm.4. LA Times, “China protest leaders elected to lead village” http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/world_now/2012/03/china-election-wukan-village-protest-leaders-elected- communist-party-democratic-reform.html.5 People’s Daily,”薄熙来、汪洋谈改革” http://theory.people.com.cn/GB/49154/49155/17308766.html.6 SINA News, “汪洋:须破除人民幸福是党和政府恩赐错误认识” http://news.sina.com.cn/c/2012-05-11/010024398264.shtml.