Arts & Culture 
 Human Rights 
 U.S. Asian Policy 

Home > East Asia > 

Jiang steps down
The true story behind the surprise move
Luo Bin

Based on information from an inside source, The New York Times reported on Sept. 7 that Jiang Zemin told Chinese officials in a meeting that he planned to resign from his last powerful post as Chairman of the Central Military Committee (CMC).

Prior to that, a rumor regarding Jiang’s stepping down from his military post had been widely spread in Beijing. According to an inside source, the main pressure that led to Jiang’s decision came from Defense Minister Cao Gangchuan, not from retired senior officials.

Making a Public Break on Military Day

Cao made an unmistakable public break with Jiang on Aug. 1, Military Day.

Cao, as China’s defense secretary, made a toast during this year’s Military Day reception in which he did not mention Jiang at all. He asked the army to be tightly united around only the Central Party Committee with Hu Jintao as the Chairman. This is in contrast to last year’s toast, when he emphasized that all should obey the Central Party Committee, CMC, and Chairman Jiang.

Born in 1935, the same year as Li Ruihuang who retired in 2002, Cao was promoted to the communist politburo in 2002. The promotion surprised reporters, yet indicated that Cao was something special.

After joining the army in 1954, Cao trained at the Nanjing 3rd and 1st Artillery Ordnance schools. Then he worked as an instructor in the same schools. In 1956, Cao learned Russian in the PLA Dalian Russian School, and then studied in the Soviet Union Artillery Military Engineering College from Sept. 1957 to Oct. 1963.

With higher education in military equipment engineering, Cao is representative of the well-educated communist military officers in China. A group of well-educated senior military officers are working closely with him.

According to an inside source, the reason for his promotion was not due to the retirement of Li Ruihuan. Instead, it was due to the fact that many well-educated military officers are directly under him, so Jiang Zemin had to give him the green light to move up.

Now, backed by President Hu Jiantao and aided by his education, Cao has become the major rival to Jiang. Sources say that Cao asked Jiang in person to resign.

The well-educated officers and their families openly discussed Jiang’s resignation, which led to the widespread rumors in Beijing—thus The New York Times report on Sept. 7.

Fight has been white-hot

On the topic of Jiang’s resignation, the fight between the two groups had been white-hot. The communist party used all the propaganda machinery in mid-2004 to sing the praises of Deng Xiaoping, former “paramount leader,” who died years ago and would have been 100 years old on Aug. 23. The main point of these praises was to extol Deng for advocating the abolition of the no-retirement system. This indirectly fingered Jiang’s holding on to military power.

Jiang stepped down as the Communist Party leader two years ago during the 16th Party Congress. Because Deng Xiaoping handed off his military power two years after he stepped down as Party leader, it created pressure for Jiang to step down from military power in the same way.

The Communist Youth League, which controls China Youth News, reported that Wangyuan county, one of the poorest counties in Sichuan province, invited Song Zhuying and other stars to perform, which they did, for a high fee. Song alone was paid 420,000 yuan (US$50,714). This report was seen as a heavy strike against Jiang because Song is widely known in China as an intimate of Jiang.

Another road sign indicating that Jiang’s power was diminishing was that a supportive statement made by Guo Boxiong was deleted from a report from Xinhua News Agency. Guo is the vice chairman and runs the daily affairs of the CMC.

In early September, Guo visited Xinjiang and Gansu provinces. During his visit, he emphasized that the PLA should obey Jiang. He also asked the army to ensure that Jiang’s “Theory of Three Represents” is the primary principle in the army’s ideology, to focus on studying Jiang’s defense and army strategy and ideology, and to comprehensively understand its scientific meaning and its basic spirit.

The Xinhua website reported Guo’s supportive statement at first; however, these words were deleted in the official news reports.

Guo is one of Jiang’s trusted followers. Previously he followed the then-chief of the general staff Fu Quanyou. After Jiang took control of the CMC, Guo was quickly promoted to his current position from the deputy chief of the general staff of the Nanzhou military district. His current position is above everyone except two persons, Jiang and Hu.

Cao’s motive to force Jiang to resign probably involves a power struggle. Cao and Guo both are members of the politburo, and both are vice chairmen of the CMC. However Guo handles the daily affairs of the committee and his name is always listed before Cao’s.

Guo was born in 1942, and he was employed as a worker at the 408 factory, Xinping County, Shanxi Province in 1958 at the age of 16, indicating that his highest education was middle school. Guo joined the army in 1963. From his start as a soldier up to his current position as vice chairman in charge of daily affairs of China’s military forces, Guo’s official career has been smooth and successful during the last forty years.

When communist officials introduced Guo, they claimed that he graduated from PLA military colleges and obtained a 3-year college certificate. However he actually studied in a PLA military college from 1981-1983 when he was nearly 40 years old. His “3-year college studies” was probably only training, not a regular college curriculum. As for the 3-year college certificate, the Communist Party could offer this to anyone it pleases. Therefore, Guo is no more than a traditional military officer.

Comparing Cao to Guo, Cao is more senior than Guo in terms of both age and military service. In addition, Cao is more highly educated than Guo. However Cao has to be under Guo. Cao, therefore, has felt the inequity.

Situation still uncertain

Cognizant that Cao has a group of well-educated officers behind him, Jiang—possibly in an attempt to protect himself—wanted his follower, Guo, to be in a more prominent position than Cao when Jiang arranged the personnel during the 16th Party congress. Despite clever maneuvers in 2002, he is now faced with a real rival, Cao. If Jiang would have considered some of the realities in the military at that time and positioned Cao ahead of Guo, Jiang may not have run into the current crisis.

Jiang certainly doesn’t want to disappear from the center of the arena. As reported in The New York Times, he promised to resign, but he initially did not specify the time. In early September, Jiang visited Xiamen on a military business with Li Jilai, who is the secretary of the PLA general equipment division, and ten other senior officers. Some observers pointed out that the purpose of his visit was to scotch the rumor of his resignation. Other observers said that it was his farewell visit.

In short, Jiang had to resign the CMC chair due to pressure. But he loves to have power. Now he may be able to hold on to power under two situations. One is if President Chen Shuibian in Taiwan challenges Beijing by, for example, claiming the independence of Taiwan. As an excuse, Jiang would ask immediately for an extension of power. The second situation is that an incident such as the 2001 China-U.S. airplane collision would give an opening for Jiang to seek an extension as well.

Shanghai Gang is abandoning Jiang

Jiang has officially resigned. It is widely known that the “Shanghai Gang” has abandoned Jiang. Clique members Vice Premier Huang Ju, Politburo Standing Committee member Jia Qinglin, and Vice Premier Zeng Peiyan have gotten close to Hu.

Even former close confidant Vice President Zeng Qinghong has recently developed a good relationship with Hu. Jiang appears to be nearly alone.

This article appears with permission from The Epoch Times - English Edition.

© Copyright 2002-2007 AFAR