Respected China banker tipped to head anti-graft effort

BEIJING Wed Nov 14, 2012 3:44pm IST

Books on the arrested Chinese official Bo Xilai (R) and potential new Chinese leaders are displayed inside a bookstore in Hong Kong, which sells books that banned in mainland China, November 6, 2012. REUTERS/Bobby Yip

Books on the arrested Chinese official Bo Xilai (R) and potential new Chinese leaders are displayed inside a bookstore in Hong Kong, which sells books that banned in mainland China, November 6, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Bobby Yip

Related Topics



BEIJING (Reuters) - A respected trade negotiator and former banker is likely to head China's fight against corruption, a top priority for the world's second-biggest economy, following his appointment to a key council at the end of the 18th congress of the Communist Party.

Known as "the chief firefighter", Wang Qishan, 64, sorted out a debt crisis in southern Guangdong province where he was vice governor in the late 1990s. Later, he replaced the sacked Beijing mayor after a cover-up of the deadly SARS virus in 2003.

Wang is now a shoo-in for the elite standing committee, the highest level of decision-making in China, after being elected to the party's central committee and its graft-battling Central Commission for Discipline Inspection.

"The bad news is that we are going to lose one of the most capable economic affairs managers in the country," said Bo Zhiyue, a Chinese politics expert at the National University of Singapore.

"The good news is that the new Chinese leadership is really interested in doing something about corruption," he added. "With the nickname 'firefighter', I think he would be one of the most capable leaders of the Politburo Standing Committee."

A former head of China Construction Bank (601939.SS), Wang is an experienced negotiator who has led finance and trade negotiations as well as the Strategic and Economic Dialogue with the United States, and is a favourite of foreign investors.

While his new role will take him away from a financial portfolio, Wang can focus his efforts on battling graft, which outgoing president Hu Jintao said last week threatened the party's rule and the state.

The run-up to the generational leadership transition at this congress has been overshadowed by the dramatic downfall of senior politician Bo Xilai, who has been expelled from the party and faces possible charges of corruption and abuse of power.

On Wednesday, the 2,270 carefully vetted party delegates cast their votes in Beijing's cavernous Great Hall of the People for the new central committee of 205 full members and 170 or so alternate members with no voting rights.

The committee will in turn, on Thursday, appoint a Politburo of about two dozen members and a Politburo Standing Committee, the innermost ring of power with possibly seven members, reduced from the current nine.

Other people elected to the central committee were Vice President Xi Jinping and Vice Premier Li Keqiang, the anointed successors of Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao, respectively, though their ascent was never in doubt.

"The congress elected a new central committee of the party and replaced older leaders with younger ones," Hu told the closing ceremony of the congress, a mix of model workers, CEOs, soldiers and ethnic minorities in traditional clothing.

The election was carefully scripted. Leadership changes have been thrashed out in advance through horse-trading between party elders and retiring leaders anxious to preserve political power and protect family interests, but must go through a choreographed election process at the congress.


Xi had long been expected to take over from Hu, first as party chief at this congress and then as president when parliament meets for its annual session in March, completing the party's second orderly succession since it took power in 1949.

One lingering question that will also be answered on Thursday is whether Hu will hang on to his role as chairman of the Central Military Commission, the supreme decision-making body for China's nuclear-armed 2.3 million-strong military.

Hu's predecessor, Jiang Zemin, only relinquished the post two years after handing the reins of the party to Hu in 2002.

The final make-up of the standing committee will not be known for sure until the new leaders emerge at a brief ceremony in the Great Hall on Thursday.

Although the central committee chooses the Politburo and the standing committee, possibly with more candidates than seats for the first time, the outcomes have already been decided at this point by the party's power-brokers, sources with ties to the leadership have told Reuters.

The membership of these elite bodies should foretell economic and political policy direction in the years ahead, how much influence Hu will retain and who, looking a decade ahead, could be China's next leaders.

It could give an idea of China's political and economic direction, especially if it ends up being dominated by conservatives instead of those with a reputation to push reform.

"We must be prepared for some really bad news," said Wang Zhengxu, a senior research fellow at the University of Nottingham's School of Contemporary Chinese Studies in Britain.

"The conservative old guys may get all the really good seats and those we think of as colourful, capable guys get the poorer jobs."

Advocates of reform are pressing Xi to cut back the privileges of state-owned firms, make it easier for rural migrants to settle in cities, fix a fiscal system that encourages local governments to live off land expropriations and, above all, tether the powers of a state that they say risks suffocating growth and fanning discontent.

After days of turgid speeches and rhetorical displays of party unity, the five-yearly congress also unanimously approved Hu's "state of the nation" work report and approved a revision to the party charter further enshrining Hu's theory of sustainable and equitable development.

Hu told delegates that "we should free up our minds (and) implement the policy of reform" before the closing ceremony ended with playing of Internationale, the traditional Communist anthem. (Additional reporting by Benjamin Kang Lim, Michael Martina, Sally Huang, Lucy Hornby and Sabrina Mao; Writing by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)

Comments (0)
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.

  • Most Popular
  • Most Shared

Korean Boat Tragedy

Family members of a missing passenger onboard the South Korean ferry Sewol which capsized on Wednesday, look at the sea as they wait for news from a rescue team, at a port in Jindo April 19, 2014. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

Sunken Korea ferry relatives give DNA swabs to help identify dead

Relatives of some of the more than 200 children missing in a sunken South Korean ferry offered DNA swabs on Saturday to help identify the dead as a rescue turned into a mission to recover the vessel and the bodies of those on board.  Full Article 


Everest Tragedy

Everest Tragedy

Death toll climbs in worst tragedy on Everest  Full Article 

Missing Plane

Missing Plane

Current underwater search for Malaysia plane could end within a week  Full Article 

Ukraine Crisis

Ukraine Crisis

Putin welcomes new NATO head, says better ties with West possible  Full Article 

Japan Military

Japan Military

Japan expands army footprint for first time in 40 years, risks angering China  Full Article 

Journalists Released

Journalists Released

Kidnapped French journalists found on Turkey's Syrian border   Full Article 

Papal Message

Papal Message

Pope Good Friday service underscores plight of the suffering.  Full Article 

Reuters India Mobile

Reuters India Mobile

Get the latest news on the go. Visit Reuters India on your mobile device.  Full Coverage