Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW)/日本からの意見

Xi Jinping Heads for Third Term with Hu Chunhua as Prime Minister?
KONDO Daisuke / Journalist

September 20, 2022
On July 27, less than three months before the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of China (October 16-), an unusually long article appeared on page 6 of the People's Daily, the official newspaper of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China. It was titled "With General Secretary Xi Jinping's important editorial on the 'Three Farms' activities as a guideline, we will struggle to open up a new phase of rural development and further proceed on all fronts”. The author was Vice Premier Hu Chunhua, 59.

From the very beginning, the thesis was full of praise for General Secretary Xi Jinping, and by my count, "Xi Jinping" appeared 51 times! Hu wrote, "Relying on the 'deep wisdom and intense love' of President Xi Jinping, ......" and so on, showing that he worshipped President Xi Jinping as if he were a god.

What I as a China watcher in Japan feel after reading this article is that Vice Premier Hu Chunhua is trying to appeal to President Xi Jinping that he can be a "modern version of Zhou Enlai”.

Zhou Enlai was the closest aide to Chairman Mao Zedong, who served as prime minister for 27 years from the founding of New China in 1949 until his death in 1976. Mao Zedong's long reign as "emperor of the modern era" was due in no small part to the outstanding administrative prowess and dynamism of his "rock-solid No. 2," Zhou Enlai.

The current president, Xi Jinping, is an ardent and committed admirer of Mao Zedong. However, Premier Li Keqiang, the number 2, could not become "Premier Zhou Enlai" for President Xi because their views are as different as "water and oil”. That is why Vice Premier Hu chose to come forward and say, "I can become Premier Zhou Enlai”.

Vice Premier Hu Chunhua was born in April 1963 to a farmer in Wufeng, Hubei Province. He was called the "child prodigy of Hubei," and at the age of 16, he was admitted to the Faculty of Chinese Literature at Peking University, one of the most elitist universities in China, where he graduated at the top of his class. After graduation, he worked for 14 years in the "farthest land" of Tibet, where he was promoted by Hu Jintao, then Secretary of the Tibet Autonomous Region Party Committee. After working at the headquarters of the Communist Youth League for four years from 1997, he was in Tibet again from 2001 to 2006. In 2006, he became the First Secretary of the Communist Youth League.

Why did Hu Jintao keep Hu Chunhua, who is like a son to him, "on ice" in Lhasa, a city at an altitude of 3,600 meters above sea level, just about the height of Mt. Fuji? According to one Chinese Communist Party official, it was because General Secretary Hu Jintao, the central figure of the "fourth revolutionary generation," was waiting for his power base to be consolidated. He did not return Hu Chunhua to Beijing until he saw for certain that Hu Chunhua, whom he wanted to be the center of the "sixth revolutionary generation," would not be kicked down by the Jiang Zemin faction, namely the "third revolutionary generation”. As I heard these words, I felt that I caught a glimpse of the fierce power struggle in the " Zhongnanhai" (Chinese Kremlin).

But in 2008, when the Hu Jintao administration successfully held the Beijing Olympics, Hu Chunhua, true to his first name’s Chinese letters, opened the "Spring Blossom”. He was ordered to become deputy secretary of the Hebei Provincial Party Committee, and in 2009 he became secretary of the Party Committee of the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, which was booming with a bubble economy.

When Hu Jintao handed over the general secretary's post to Xi Jinping in 2012, he installed Hu Chunhua as a member of the Central Political Bureau (the party's top 25), simultaneously appointing him as secretary of the Guangdong Provincial Party Committee. Guangdong Province is China's largest economic powerhouse. Hu probably considered that by placing Hu in Guangzhou, 2,200 km from Beijing, the risk of his being ousted by Xi Jinping would be reduced. It was "parental love," so to speak.

Five years later, when the 19th Congress of the Communist Party was held in 2017, the question of whether Hu Chunhua could be promoted to the position of Party Standing Committee member (the party's top seven members) was still open. If he could be promoted, it would pave the way for him to replace Xi Jinping as party general secretary (the party's top leader) at the next party congress in 2022.

The aforementioned Chinese Communist Party official further said. "In August 2017, two months before the 19th Party Congress, Hu Chunhua wrote a letter to Xi Jinping. It said, 'I am not qualified to be a Party Standing Committee member because I am still a novice. Instead, I would like you to let me push forward with work in the rural areas’. But he set one condition. He asked Xi to have him publish a signed article in the People's Daily on the economic development of Guangdong Province over the past four years and some months. General Secretary Xi Jinping agreed.

In other words, the 19th Party Congress became a stage where Hu Chunhua, by default, laid the groundwork for winning later. Hu Chunhua published a signed article in the August 30 edition of the People's Daily of the same year, describing the economic growth of Guangdong Province. Then, at the 19th Party Congress in October of the same year, General Secretary Xi Jinping did not elevate the "revolutionary sixth generation" to the Party Standing Committee.

The following March 2018, Hu Chunhua was appointed deputy prime minister in charge of rural affairs, the third among four deputy prime ministers. After more than four years of abeyance, Hu Chunhua has now finally decided to "go for the win". The selling point is that he is "Premier Zhou Enlai for General Secretary Xi Jinping.

For Vice Premier Hu Chunhua, the biggest rival is Li Qiang, who has been a loyal acolyte of President Xi Jinping since Xi’s days in Zhejiang Province, and whom Xi wants to make Premier.
Will it be Vice Premier Hu Chunhua or Li Qiang, Secretary of the Shanghai Municipal Party Committee, who will be unofficially recognized as the new premier to be elected next March? We will find out at the party congress on October 16.

Daisuke Kondo is a special editorial board member of Kodansha.

The English-Speaking Union of Japan

近藤 大介 / ジャーナリスト

2022年 9月 20日

冒頭から習近平総書記への礼賛に溢れ、数えてみたら、寄稿文には「習近平」が51回! も登場していた。「習近平総書記の『深い知恵と切々たる愛情』に根づいて……」などと述べ、習近平総書記をまるで神のように崇めているのである。










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English Speaking Union of Japan > Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW) > Xi Jinping Heads for Third Term with Hu Chunhua as Prime Minister?