Editor's note: This is the final part in a series of articles on the Communist Youth League and the officials who have used the organization as their power base.
* * *
BEIJING--A Communist Party official stated the obvious when a Japanese delegation was visiting the Beijing Hall of the Great Hall of the People on Jan. 29.
"Now is a very sensitive time," the official told the Japanese, who included former Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama.
Relations between Japan and China were still rocky because of the dispute over the Senkaku Islands. But one Japanese delegate sensed that the tense mood on the Chinese side was not because of the territorial row.
"Rather than the Senkakus issue, it is probably a delicate time for a personnel decision about Li," one of the Japanese participants said he thought.
The delegation was anxiously waiting for a meeting with Li Yuanchao, a member of the Communist Party Central Committee Politburo.
Chinese officials made clear that no photos would be allowed at the meeting, including the customary group shot of all participants.
Li, 62, a former high-ranking official of the Communist Youth League, was seen as a sure bet to be named a Politburo Standing Committee member. However, conservative elements in the party, including former General Secretary Jiang Zemin, 86, opposed the move, and Li was snubbed at the National Party Congress last November.
Despite the setback, Li appeared very relaxed when he entered the room for the meeting with Murayama, a member of the Japanese delegation said.
At a dinner reception, a high-ranking Chinese official said about Li's earlier demeanor, "That is evidence that he will become vice president."
Jiang and his allies also appear to have opposed the naming of Li as vice president on grounds that he would be promoted from the comparatively low position of Politburo member.
However, important changes have occurred since the start of the National Party Congress last autumn.
In late January, Chinese media reports began referring to Jiang only after first naming the seven Politburo Standing Committee members who constitute the top leadership under new General Secretary Xi Jinping, 59, as well as the four who were in important posts under former General Secretary Hu Jintao, 70.
Xi was vice president under Hu.
Even after he stepped down as general secretary, Jiang was often positioned right behind Hu in media reports. So the references to Jiang in the 12th position were a clear sign that he had fallen in the party hierarchy.
At the autumn National Party Congress, Hu announced he was stepping down from all party, government and military posts on the condition that an internal stipulation that all important matters be reported to Jiang was abolished, according to party sources.
That move led to the decrease in Jiang's influence.
The recently ended National People's Congress selected Xi as president, completing the transition process from Hu.
Among former officials of the Communist Youth League, Li Keqiang, 57, was named premier. Wang Yang, 58, who was secretary of the Guangdong provincial party committee, was named a vice premier.
Hu Chunhua, 49, who was named to replace Wang as Guangdong provincial party committee, is now a leading candidate to succeed Xi in 10 years.
Those moves have set the stage for continued political infighting between those who rose through the Communist Youth League and those like Xi who are called the "princelings," or the offspring of former high-ranking party officials.
(This article was written by Kenji Minemura and Nozomu Hayashi.)
* * *
The previous installments of this series are available at:
- « Prev
- Next »