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Hu Working to Consolidate Power
Paul Lin

On July 24, the Politburo of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) convened a meeting where it was decided that the Sixth Plenary Session of the 16th CCP Central Committee would be held in October. The main event at the session will be the presentation of a Politburo report to the Central Committee on research into the construction of a harmonious society.

Last month's Politburo meeting also discussed and studied China's economic prospects and economic accomplishments.

Following tradition, the CCP will hold its 17th National Congress, at which power will be redistributed, in the autumn of next year. Prior to the congress, the Central Committee will hold its Seventh Plenary Session to make the final arrangements. This means that the personnel arrangements will basically be made at the Central Committee's Sixth Plenary Session this October.

As a result, infighting and power struggles in the CCP are bound to intensify.

Five years ago, former Chinese president Jiang Zemin led the CCP's 16th National Congress, where he arranged for his supporters to serve in the highest policy-making body so that they could pressure President Hu Jintao.

Hu is always preaching the importance of harmony, but the Chinese public believes that while he speaks about public harmony, he is in fact driving at the disharmony between himself and Jiang. As the CCP's 17th National Congress approaches, these things will become clearer and clearer.

On April 6, Jiang made an appearance at the 110th anniversary celebration of Shanghai Jiao Tong University. Top cadres from the CCP's Shanghai branch accompanied Jiang throughout the visit and the university gave him the red-carpet treatment, displaying a huge banner reading "Chairman Jiang, your Alma Mater Welcomes You" and addressing him as "General-Secretary."

The next day, however, the slogan and the title were deleted from a long report that had been posted on the university's Web site.

May 1 marked the first day of China's "golden week" holiday, with millions of tourists traveling around the country. Jiang took the opportunity provided by the holiday to visit Tai Mountain in Shandong Province to admire the sunrise there. As a result of his visit, big groups of tourists were barred from climbing the mountain, thereby letting all Chinese people know that "Chairman Jiang" is still in good health and traveling around the country.

Some Chinese Web sites posted photos of Jiang being carried on a sedan chair flanked by Shandong provincial party Secretary Zhang Gaoli.

Outraged by these photos, Hu decided to release former Beijing party chief Chen Xitong from prison on medical parole. Immediately upon his release, Chen, who in 1995 was given a 16-year jail sentence by Jiang for corruption, filed a lawsuit against Jiang for persecution.

Recently, people close to Jiang have been investigated, such as the financial dealings between the wife of Huang Ju, a member of the Politburo's Standing Committee, and business tycoons in Shanghai. Given these circumstances, many have started paying close attention to another person close to Jiang, namely Zeng Qinghong, Chinese vice president and a member of the Politburo's Standing Committee.

Zeng, whose father was a high-ranking CCP cadre, has been called an "ace strategist" within Zhongnanhai. Zeng turns 68 next year, which is the age of retirement given his level within the party. However, according to media reports, Zeng has pledged allegiance to Hu, and will therefore be allowed to remain in his post as a counterweight to Jiang's supporters.

July 1 marked the opening of the Qinghai-Tibet railway. Hu presided over the opening ceremony in Golmud, Qinghai Province, while Zeng's confidante Zhou Yongkang, who is also the Minister of Public Security and a member of the Politburo, presided over the opening in Lhasa, Tibet. It seems that the beginnings of a balance of power are developing.

China recently released official figures which showed economic growth of 11.3 percent in the second quarter. Investment in fixed assets in urban areas also increased, up 31.3 percent compared with the same period last year.

China's economy is heating up faster than expected, but Beijing dares not forcefully implement macroeconomic controls to consolidate the support of local government leaders amid power struggles.

Paul Lin is a political commentator based in Taipei.

Translated by Daniel Cheng

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