Tue, Oct 04, 2016 - Page 9 News List

Xi to consolidate power by curbing Youth League

The faction is the entry point for those wanting to join the Chinese Communist Party and if they dominate next year’s Standing Committee, they might have the numbers to fill the top jobs under the Chinese president and premier

by Benjamin Kang Lim and Ben Blanchard  /  Reuters, BEIJING

Illustration: Yusha

A year before a Chinese Communist Party (CCP) conclave that could decide who would eventually replace him as China’s next leader, Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) is maneuvering to reduce the power of a rival political bloc while seeking to get members of his own faction onto the country’s top ruling body, according to three sources with ties to the leadership.

Xi is trying to prevent the Communist Youth League faction from dominating the party’s seven-member Standing Committee during the 19th congress next year, the sources said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“There is no way Xi will let the Youth League have a majority in the Standing Committee,” one of the sources told reporters.

The once-powerful faction is struggling to remain relevant after the Youth League’s annual budget was slashed by half this year and as it was blasted in state media for being “too elitist and inefficient.”

Xi’s hand was widely believed to have been behind these attacks, the sources and diplomats said.

The faction is made up of current and former members of the Youth League, the Communist Party’s youth wing with 88 million members aged between 14 and 28. It includes mainly party and government officials with no particular political pedigree, but who have for decades been groomed to become potential future rulers.

It was previously a stepping stone to the top and the faction is a political stronghold of Hu Jintao (胡錦濤), Xi’s immediate predecessor as president, party and military chief.

Neither the Youth League nor the State Council Information Office, which is both the Cabinet spokesman’s office and speaks on behalf of the party, responded to requests for comment for this article. There is no foreign media access to the personal office of Xi or to the offices of any other senior Chinese leader.

Among those on the Standing Committee, only Xi, 63, and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang (李克強), 61 — who is a member of the Youth League faction — will not have reached retirement age by the time of next year’s congress. They are both widely expected to retain their No. 1 and No. 2 spots on the committee, the sources and diplomats said.

The other five are most likely to retire based on what has happened at previous congresses.

If the three potential Youth League candidates — Vice President Li Yuanchao (李源潮), Vice Premier Wang Yang (汪洋) and Guangdong provincial party boss Hu Chunhua (胡春華, no relation to former president Hu) — were elected at the congress, the Youth League faction would have a majority on the body and that would be unacceptable to Xi, the sources said.

All three are currently members of the politburo.

LOYALTY

These people said it was not immediately clear whether Xi is planning any other moves against the Youth League faction. At least one of the faction’s candidates is expected to get elected whatever Xi’s efforts, the sources said.

Xi wants to promote those most loyal to him so that he can push through reforms to buoy the slowing economy and handpick a successor to ensure his legacy, they said.

Xi’s group is known as the “Zhejiang Clique” after Zhejiang Province, where be built support when he was governor and party boss from 2002 to 2007. He also has the support of the so-called “princelings,” or red aristocrats, because like him they had parents who were senior party, government or military officials.

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