Mon, Oct 09, 2006 - Page 1 News List

Hu Jintao flexes muscles at annual CCP policy meeting

AGENCIES , BEIJING

China's ruling communist elite opened an annual meeting yesterday that will focus on policies for spreading the nation's newfound prosperity more evenly and on President Hu Jintao's (胡錦濤) attempts to further consolidate his power and further chip away at the residual influence of his predecessor, Jiang Zemin (江澤民).

About 350 full and alternate members of the elite Central Committee opened a four-day plenary session which will decide the fate of Jiang ally Chen Liangyu (陳良宇), sacked as Shanghai party boss last month for channelling pension funds into illegal investments.

"It means that Hu Jintao is now more or less in full control, that the Jiang Zemin era has ended," Joseph Cheng (鄭宇碩), a China watcher at City University of Hong Kong, said of Chen's downfall.

Analysts expect the meeting to strip Chen of his party membership and possibly turn his case over for prosecution.

In a power play, Hu took on Shanghai, Jiang's political stronghold and China's financial hub, to root out official graft and instil loyalty. Chen's downfall crippled the "Shanghai Gang" of Jiang allies and proteges.

Chen and other independent-minded local leaders had defied the central government's moves to cool the overheating economy.

Chen also lost his seat on the party's 24-member Politburo, the first member of the decision-making body to be dismissed since 1995 when Jiang purged and jailed Bei-jing party boss Chen Xitong (陳希同). The two Chens are not related.

The plenum, or full assembly, of China's ruling body is set to endorse Hu's doctrine of building a "harmonious society," which aims to embrace millions of Chinese left out of the country's economic boom. It will eventually replace Jiang's "Three Represents" theory, which opened the party's doors to private entrepreneurs.

The official Xinhua news agency defined a harmonious society as "a democratic society under the rule of law, a society based on equality and justice, an honest and caring society, and a stable, vigorous and orderly society in which humans live in harmony with nature."

Huang Zongliang (黃宗良), a Peking University professor, said Communist parties in the Soviet Union and Eastern European countries lost power because they distanced themselves from the masses, stuck to rigid procedures, refused to make changes, neglected contradictions and violated laws of development.

The Communist Party "should draw a lesson from them and avoid repeating their mistakes," Xinhua quoted Huang as saying.

Analysts say Hu's doctrine is aimed at correcting Jiang's mistakes while keeping his prestige intact and resolving a plethora of problems held over from the Jiang era.

Reforms during Jiang's 13-year watch have been blamed for a yawning gap between rich and poor and between wealthy coastal regions and the impoverished hinterland.

Exorbitant medical and housing costs, land grabs and pollution spawn thousands of protests a year.

The plenum, the sixth since Hu replaced Jiang as party chief in 2002, will also discuss policies aimed at expanding inner-party democracy, analysts said.

Shanghai Mayor Han Zheng (韓正) has been named the city's acting party chief in an apparent attempt to contain any political fall-out from Chen's ousting.

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