the 18th npc: princelings and the jiang gang

This afternoon at lunch, the new members of the Central Politburo Standing Committee of the Communist Party of China trundled out, in order: re-elected members Xi Jinping (习近平) and Li Keqiang (李克强), and newly elected members, Zhang Dejiang (张德江), Yu Zhengsheng (俞正声), Liu Yunshan (刘云山), Wang Qishan (王岐山), and Zhang Gaoli (张高丽). Other than the fact that the Standing Committee members rank number 1-7 in the country, we also know that they overwhelmingly represent the Princeling Party and the remnant strength of Jiang Zemin’s power base (Liu Yunshan and Zhang Gaoli). For those of us in Guangdong, we also learned that Wang Yang will remain in Bejing as a vice-premier, with a very good chance of becoming a standing committee member in the 19th national people’s congress. Pictures of Chinese top 7:

the u.s. election and the 18th npc

I have recently hooked into “we chat (微信)”, Tencent’s latest social networking app. Point du jour is simple: Tencent regularly bleeps me news updates, so I can follow world headlines at a glance. These past few days, the juxtaposition of the US election and the 18th National People’s Congress has offered lessons in misreading and irony.

For example: On the eve of the US election, I received the following three headlines:

  1. Today’s topic: does the election divide or unite Americans? to be followed by
  2. The 38 delegations arrived for the 18th NPC and first in line were the farmer-workers (meaning farmers who are migrant workers) delegation, and then, just so you don’t forget that the US and China are not two sides of the same coin
  3. Microsoft will use Skype instead of MSN everywhere but the Mainland.

Now, I’m not sure how direct the comparison between the US election and the 18th NPC were to be. Clearly, while both are domestic rituals, they will impact people through out the world. After all, international chains of production and consumption (of say computers and software) have made the US and PRC not only important trade partners, but also jointly influential over the global distribution of production and consumption in disturbing ways. However, that direction of thought was not picked up by the news editors at Tencent. Instead, the implicit comparison was between the “divisiveness” of the US election system and the “harmony” of the NPC.

Here’s the telling moment: this series of headlines could as easily fit into a Fox Network summary as an explicit (and self-congratulatory) comparison between the “democratic” structure of American politics in contrast to the “homogenized” politics of China.

As any structural anthropologist could tell you, when symbolic systems are this easily converted, there’s a good chance we’re talking about moieties, a form of unilineal descent that involves the occurrence of descent groups in linked pairs which assume complementary positions and functions. In more traditional moieties, marriage is exogamous and involves women and men marrying exclusively from the matching group. However, moieties also engage in trade and other activities, providing the larger social context of extra- and intra-moiety relations.

This is me thinking about the growing interdependence, not simply material, but also ideological between the US and PRC. Our co-dependence is deep and worrisome because we’ve yet to see any evidence that we do anything but reinforce our own and each other’s blind spots.


policy by number

In anticipation of the 18th National People’s Congress (and possible trial and sentencing of Bo Xilai and concomitant rise of Wang Yang), I am offering a bit of policy by number — one country, two systems, for example. Chinese policies (at all levels of government) tend to come in easy to remember chunks, which in turn are parsed and memorized in politics class. Of course, in addition to politics classes taught in actual schools, all government organizations also unpack the latest phrase because as the ill-fated reception of Jiang Zemin’s “three represents” demonstrates, its possible to disseminate a catchy catchphrase without the larger public actually figuring out is being said.

A few examples, the author, and a few dates of Chinese policy by number:

One Country, Two Systems (一国两制; Deng Xiaoping, 1984) refers to the decision that Hong Kong would remain administratively separate from the PRC and was used again for the return of Macau, allowing both Special Administrative Regions to continue business operations as they had under colonialism, even as political authority shifted to Beijing. The phras also anticipates the return of Taiwan.

Three Represents (三个代表; Jiang Zemin, 2000) refers to which Chinese interests the Party represents, namely 1. the demand for progressive production capacity; 2. the cutting edge of progressive cultural production, and 3. the basic interests of the vast majority of the People. Unfortunately, even in Chinese the three represents are counter intuitive (1. 始终代表中国先进社会生产力的发展要求;2. 始终代表中国先进文化的前进方向;始终代表中国最广大人民的根本利益) and many thought that the phrase referred to three representatives of Marxism: Marx, Lenin, and Mao. But again, if we were talking about the people’s representatives in the post Mao era, where was Deng Xiaoping’s place in all this?

Four Modernizations (四个现代化;1st plenary session of the 3rd National People’s Congress, December, 1964) refers to the imperatives to modernize industry, agriculture, national defense, and science and technology research (工业现代化、农业现代化、国防现代化、科学技术现代化). The four modernizations where to be accomplished in two, 15 year steps (两步走), or to modernize over the course of 6 five-year plans. Step 1 was to establish a modern industrial base and economic system by 1979; step 2 was to bring China’s industry and economy to the world by 1995. In the 3rd plenary session of the 11th National People’s Congress, Deng Xiaoping memorably reestablished the four modernizations as the guiding policies.

After these first three, Chinese policy by number quickly deteriorates into farce because every level of government and many work units promote their goals through this system. Of note, however, is that Chongqing and Guangdong policy by number soundbites have entered into public discourse, not to mention Hu Jintao’s love of the genre. A few of the more prominent examples:

Three attacks, two establishments (三打两建; Wang Yang, 2011) are the current Guangdong Provincial government’s commitment to attack monopolistic markets, to attack piracy, and to attack corruption and establish systems of social trust and marketplace oversight (打击欺行霸市、打击制假售假、打击商业贿赂;建设社会信用体系、建设市场监管体系).

Five Chongqings (五个重庆; Bo Xilai, 2008) marked the beginning of the Chongqing Model of development, and referred to inhabitable Chongqing, smooth traffic Chongqing, forested Chongqing, safe Chongqing, and healthy Chongqing (宜居重庆、畅通重庆、“森林重庆、平安重庆和健康重庆).

Six Efforts, Six Actualizations (六个着力六个切实; Hu Jintao, 2009) are more ongoing efforts to fight corruption by changing the hearts and minds of Party members by striving to strengthen guiding principles and to actualize the Party for the public good and administering government for the people; striving to improve praxis and to actualize the Party’s praxis of scientific guidance; striving to strengthen responsibility and to actualize the responsibility to follow the Party and the People to be generous; striving to establish correct political positions and to establish objective development [which then has its own numbered list of how tos]; striving to establish a correct view of benefits and to actualize the People’s benefit as being primary, and; striving to strengthen  the Party’s discipline and to actualize Party unity [in four areas] (着力增强宗旨观念,切实做到立党为公,执政为民;着力提高实践能力,切实用党的科学理论指导工作实践;着力强化责任意识,切实履行党和人民赋予的责任;着力树立正确的政绩观,切实按照客观规律谋划发展,要察实情,讲实话,鼓实劲,出实招,办实事,求实效;着力树立正确的利益观,切实把人民利益放在首位;着力增强党的纪律观念,切实维护党的统一,在思想上,行动上,政治上与党中央保持一致,维护党的统一。)

Eight Honors, Eight Shames (八榮八恥; Hu Jintao, 2006) were promoted to cultivate the moral conscious of Party members; patriotism is an honor, while harming the country is a shame; serving the people is an honor, while turning one’s back on the people is a shame; respecting science is an honor, while stupidity is a shame; hard work is an honor, while sloth is a shame; solidarity is an honor, while the pursuit of self benefits is a shame; being trustworthy is an honor, while being opportunistic is a shame; upholding the law is an honor, while breaking the law is a shame; struggle is an honor, while arrogant greed is a shame (坚持以热爱祖国为荣、以危害祖国为耻,以服务人民为荣、以背离人民为耻,以崇尚科学为荣、以愚昧无知为耻,以辛勤劳动为荣、以好逸恶劳为耻,以团结互助为荣、以损人利己为耻,以诚实守信为荣、以见利忘义为耻,以遵纪守法为荣、以违法乱纪为耻,以艰苦奋斗为荣、以骄奢淫逸为耻).


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).

三打两建:ideology in guangdong

Guangdong Party Secretary, Wang Yang has been busy shoring up his position as a reliable, upstanding, and neo-liberal party member.

Since February this year, all of Guangdong has been engaged in “three attacks and two establishments (三打两建)”, a movement that has its own, quite extensive website. The three targets of attack are “illegal monopolization of the market through violence (欺行霸市)”, “manufacturing and selling fake goods (制假售假)”, and “commercial bribery (商业贿赂)”. The two principals to be established are “a system of social trust (社会信用体系)” and “a system of market oversight (市场监管体系)”.

It seems on first glance a call to rationalize highly local systems of production, consumption, and regulation because I have usually seen movement banners in urban villages, rather than in malls, making villagers the target of Guangdong’s current ideological movement. For example, “illegal monopolization of the market through violence” and “commercial bribery” seem to be descriptions of how markets and shops are actually run (with their reputed mafia ties) in villages. Likewise, “manufacturing and selling fake goods” also seems to be located in villages, with low-level investors setting up shanzhai factories in older, under the radar of municipal oversight spaces and then distributing these goods through local outlets. In contrast, the double aim to establish systems of trust and market regulation point to the government’s determination to bring all production, distribution, and consumption under a system of generalized oversight.

Currently, Shenzhen’s villages have all been incorporated into the municipal apparatus and villagers given citizen status. However, to the extent that industrialization in the Pearl River Delta has created rich villages that cultivate loyalty to the collective (or extended family) rather than to the state (as an abstract system), the next step in rural urbanization has become transforming villagers into citizens. Currently, one of the defining characteristics of a citizen in contrast to a villager is that “citizens” position themselves with respect to national laws (shared with strangers), while “villagers” position themselves with respect to traditional values (shared with familiars and intimates).

Point du jour, an important task of Chinese governance has become shifting how the state interpellates rural residents, hailing them as individualized “citizens”, rather than as collectivized “farmers” even when and despite the fact that many villages (such as Xiasha) are investing in symbols of collective identity, and the “urban village” has become a stereotype of Shenzhen cultural identity.

the secret to happiness…

Yesterday, Guangdong Party Secretary Wang Yang (汪洋) addressed the 11th Guangdong Provincial Congress of Party Representatives, making five statements which have set him apart from other high-ranking leaders. Once a rival of Bo Xilai for a place in the 18th Naptional People’s Congress appointments, Wang Yang has also made his gesture to gain the support of the people. However, where Bo Xilai went poor populist, Wang Yang’s speech has me remembering the Province’s historic role in the 1911 Xinhai Revolution, when 100 years ago, with its links to overseas Chinese and relatively advanced economy, Guangdong was the cradle of China’s bourgeois revolution, in contrast to the rural uprising that Mao Zedong transformed into a socialist revolution. Wang Yang is a leader for China’s emergent and increasingly vocal middle class. And yes, many of them live in the Pearl River Delta.

Wang Yang’s Five Statements

1. The People are the agent that makes history, as well as the agent that constructs and enjoys Happy Guangdong. The people have the right to pursue happiness; it is the responsibility of the Party and the government to benefit the People. We must discard the mistaken idea that the People’s happiness is a result of the Party and government’s benevolence. (人民群众是创造历史的主体,也是建设和享有幸福广东的主体。追求幸福,是人民的权利;造福人民,是党和政府的责任。我们必须破除人民幸福是党和政府恩赐的错误认识.)

2. We need to discard unwritten rules and bad habits, creating a just, lively, and orderly social environment, where those who follow the rules don’t suffer, where talented people can take the lead, and can pursue and create their own happy life to the best of their ability. (破除潜规则陋习,创造公平公正、活力有序的社会环境,让守规矩的人不吃亏,让有本事的人有奔头,各尽所能地追求和创造自己的幸福生活.)

3. The greatest threat to the Party’s long-term political control is becoming too far from the masses. Our Party can only achieve eternal success to the extent that it comes from the People, is rooted in the People, and serves the People. (党长期执政的最大危险是脱离群众。只有始终坚持来自人民、植根人民、服务人民,我们党才能永远立于不败之地.)

4. We need the courage to use personal revolution to firmly destroy the interests that have turned their backs on socialist market economic reforms in order to resolve problems of government agents exceeding their function, absenting their function, and mistaking their function, making government into a provider of public goods and services. (我们要以自我革命的勇气,坚决打破背离社会主义市场经济改革方向的利益格局,解决政府职能越位、缺位、错位等问题,使政府真正成为公共产品和公共服务的提供者.)

5. Guangdong’s market society has already begun to change… If we take hold of this opportunity, we can breakthrough many difficulties and problems on the road ahead of us, smoothly entering the ranks of more modern areas; if we don’t take hold of this opportunity, we may be unable to escape “the middle income trap”, stagnating and retreating, and the advances we have already made could be lost.  (广东经济社会已经步入转型期……把握得好,我们就能破解前进道路上的各种困难和问题,顺利步入比较发达的现代化地区行列;把握得不好,我们就有可能跨不过‘中等收入陷阱’,出现停滞和倒退,已经取得的发展成果也有可能断送.)

party melodrama as prelude to the 18th national people’s congress

Shenzhen friends have been speculating about the political-economic shifts we will see as a result of the 18th National People’s Congress. The latest scandal involves Politboro Standing Committee hopeful Bo Xilai (薄熙来) and his henchman slash vice Mayor slash Chief of Police, Wang Lijun (王立军).

The scandal and source of gossip: Wang Lijun visited the US Consulate. The Chongqing military policy surrounded the Consulate, demanding the US to handover Wang Lijun. Beijing sent Qiu Jin, vice Minister of National Security. 24 hours after entering, Wang Lijun “willingly” left the US consulate with Qiu Jin. Subsequently, Bo Xilai went to Kunming for unknown reasons.

I have been trying to understand what’s at stake, why the fallout, and how to read between the lines. This is what I’ve gathered; some of the gossip may even be reliable.

The dramatic background of the Bo Xilai scandal is the fight to become a member of the Politboro Standing Committee, which is a recognized springboard for becoming President and Premier, positions one and two in China. Bo Xilai is one of the more prominent and/or notorious members of China’s Princeling Party (太子党), the generation of Party leaders who have come to power because of their powerful parents. Bo Xilai’s father, Bo Yibo was one of the “eight immortals” of the Deng era Communist Party. The Princelings are in the news because China’s next leader Xi Jinping, son of Communist veteran, Xi Zhongxun is also a Princeling.

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