Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Wang Yang

There has been some speculation about the appointment of Wang Yang to the Politburo Standing Committee at the 18th Chinese Communist Party Congress next month, though also equally strong speculation that he will not. See, e.g., Jamil Anderlini, “Mystery Shrouds Leadership Change”, Financial Times October 27, 2012, p. 2 (“The fixation on the final list of names is fed by apparent misinformation campaigns from groups who hope to influence the process).

 (Pix from TIME 100: The List: Wang Yang, Apparatchik, 2012)

Wang Yang is less well known in the West than his more left leaning contemporary and rival Bio Xilai. (But that may be ending, see Austin Ramzy, TIME 100: The List: Wang Yang, Apparatchik, 2012.  But he is still understood in Soviet terms (note the apparatchik reference in the Time 100 listing). Both Wang Yang and Bo Xilai had similar aspirations and for a while followed similar paths. But that, perhaps is where the similarities end. Whether or not Wang Yang is appointed to the Standing Committee, he is unlikely to remain in the shadows and it is important to begin to follow him more closely. My research assistant Keren Wang has put together a brief description of Wang Yang for the purpose of introducing him to non-Chinese readers, and to contrast, at least preliminarily, Wang Yang’s approach to that of the now discredited Bo Xilai.

A Brief Biography of Wang Yang by Keren Wang

Important dates:1
1. 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)

Happy Province
(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”.


2. Asia Times, “Wang Yang: a rising star in China”. http://www.atimes.com/atimes/China/IE03Ad02.html

3 Xinhua, “被网友称最牛的重与开商达成和解”. 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.

5 People’s Daily,”薄熙来、汪洋改革http://theory.people.com.cn/GB/49154/49155/17308766.html.
6 SINA News, “汪洋: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.

1 comment:

Keren W. said...

We'll learn the new lineup for the new Politburo in a few hours. It's very interesting to see how Jiang Zeming has trusted himself back to the center stage again. Until the advent of the Bo Xilai scandal, Jiang was pretty much in hiatus and seemed enjoying his retirement, I guess he has to take up the responsibility again as the sole living 'elder' within the Party. Jiang's strong presence also suggests that Hu's clique is losing clout within the CPC, and many within the Party are not satisfied with Hu's conservative leadership style, which facilitated the emergence of a political oligarchy made up of State-owned enterprises. I would expect the new politburo mostly consist of Jiang's folks.

Against this background, I believe there are three main things we should look for tomorrow morning: First, whether Hu Jintao would retain his position as the Chairman of the Central Military Position. If he decided (or forced) to let go his military post, it may suggest that Hu's political capital has suffered tremendously during the latter part of his tenure. Second, whether the Politburo Standing Committee would be reduced to 7 members. It seems that at least partially the reason for Hu's failure to initiate substantive reforms during his 10-year tenure as the Paramount Leader is due to the partisanship within the PSC, that it is extremely difficult to get a consensus from all 9 members of the committee. Wen Jiabao also expressed his personal frustration on this fractured executive system. Third and lastly, it is very interesting to see whether Wang Yang would get a seat at the Standing Committee. Wang's the most popular and perhaps most controversial candidate for the PSC. As a vocal supporter for both economic and political reforms, his presence (or lack of) in the Standing Committee would be a good indicator for the Party's general direction in the next 5-10 years.