of floods and politics, or how the beijing disaster helps wang yang

The official death tole for the Beijing floods is 77 people. Weibo reports however, that in Fangshan District (房山区) alone over 800,000 people have been affected. In response, Mayor Guo Jinlong resigned yesterday, acknowledging his failure to be responsible for the people’s well-being. Today, Beijing Party Secretary Guo Jinlong went to Fangshan to show solidarity with those suffering. Yes, that is correct. In one of the more off the wall moments of Chinese politics, Guo Jinlong was both the Mayor and as of a month ago, also the Party Secretary of Beijing. Even in Chongqing, Bo Xilai was only able to act as Party Secretary, while the Mayorship was held by Huang Qifan.

Here’s the beauty of Guo Jinlong’s gesture. As a government functionary, Guo Jinlong could legally resign. However, as the holder of a Party appointment, Guo Jinlong can only loose his position as Party Secretary if the Party leadership decides to remove him from office — hee!

Now, Guo Jinlong is of interest to those of us in Guangdong who are following Guangdong Party Secretary Wang Yang’s career because like Bo Xilai, Guo was one of Wang Yang’s key rivals to become either Secretary General of the Chinese Communist Party or President of the Country. To be appointed to one of the top two positions in China, Wang Yang must first be appointed to the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau, CPC Central Committee during the 18th NPC. These nine hopefuls will be chosen from provincial level appointees, which includes the Secretary Generals and Mayors of the four independent cities (Beijing, Shanghai, Tianjin, and Chongqing) as well as provincial secretary generals and governors.

In January this year, Wang Yang’s top rivals for one of the nine positions in the Standing Committee were Chongqing Party Secretary Bo Xilai and Beijing Mayor Guo Jinlong. Whatever one thinks of Wang Yang’s “three attacks and two establishes” campaign, notwithstanding, as a recent text message reveals, the Beijing floods may have given Wang Yang the push he needs to get one step closer the highest positions in Chinese politics. So the country may flip neo-liberal even faster than expected, not because privatization works, but simply because recently several political high-fliers are crashing and with them, alternative models of development.

Insights from the Beijing Floods (北京水灾几点启示):

1。The water in Beijing is deep;2。In Beijing, having a house and car is nothing, you also need to have a boat;3。All Beijing subway stations have the same name — Drainage Pool (a pun on the actual station 积水潭);4。Car owners finally understands the government’s great efforts to collect “car and boat taxes” from private citizens;5。The South to North Water Diversion Project (南水北调工程) is finally seeing results (this massive engineering project will be completed in 2013, connecting northern provinces to the Yangtze River);6。The Northern Drifters finally have a correct footnote (artists who go to Beijing to make a career are known as “northern drifters (北漂)”;7。As soon as Wang Yang enters the capitol he will have a job (because both characters in Wang Yang’s name have the water radical: Wang (汪) is a surname that means an expanse of water and Yang (洋), his given name, means ocean).

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