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Young leaders to the fore
  09:23, September 30, 2007 [Font big medium small] [BBS] [Print] [Close]
Younger and better-educated leaders have emerged from the reshuffle of the Communist Party of China's (CPC) provincial level leadership that was completed at the end of last month. The reshuffle, which takes place every five years, took nine months to complete and cut the number of deputy CPC chiefs by more than half.

The average age of the new leaders is 58, and 98 Party chiefs were elected to lead the country's 31 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities. And almost 60 percent of them hold master's or doctor's degrees, mostly in law or economics. This is in sharp contrast to the 1970s and 1980s when most of the leaders were technocrats.

Though those born in the 1940s account for 39 percent of the total, the ones born in the 1950s are becoming the backbone of the CPC's local leadership by grabbing 57 percent of the posts.

Moreover, about 5 percent of the newly elected Party chiefs are in their 40s, a rarity for a provincial level leader. Earlier, a person often had to spend decades before becoming leader of a province, some of which are larger than many small countries.

The number of deputy Party chiefs has been cut from four to two in most provinces. Usually, one of the two deputy party chiefs is the provincial governor, and the provincial CPC body's standing committee has 13 members. The number of deputy chiefs in provincial Party committees too has been trimmed, from 158 to 67.

The trend of appointing younger officials can be attributed to a rule issued by the CPC Central Committee's Organization Department last year. It defined the proportion of different age groups in the provincial leadership and was used as the guideline for the latest reshuffle. It says that not fewer than three members of the standing committee of a provincial Party committee should be below 50, with at least one being around 45.

The 1960s-born group includes the Governor of Hunan Zhou Qiang (47) and the deputy chief of the CPC Tibet Committee Hao Peng (46). Zhou Qiang, in fact, is the country's youngest provincial governor, and CPC Shaanxi Provincial Committee Secretary Zhao Leji (50) the youngest provincial Party boss.

But that does not mean senior and experienced faces have faded totally. The new local CPC leadership is actually a combination of young and old, CPC Central Committee Party School professor Li Min says.

Professor of Peking University's School of Government Xu Xianglin says the reason why so many young faces have emerged is the cultivation of potential leaders in the 1980s. The then Party leadership decided to do so because they read the impending trend of social development and the disadvantages elderly officials had for being too conservative.

"Leaders in their 40s have strong political passion and are committed to their goals. This can only benefit the country," Xu says. "Also, the 'cultural revolution' affected the country's school education system. Unlike those born earlier, people born in the early 1960s were lucky because they could be part of the resumed university education system after 1976. That's why they could rise so fast."

Wang Wei, professor with the National School of Administration who teaches young officials, attributes their rise to their broader vision and expertise in social administration. "They were born and raised during the 'cultural revolution', educated in an era when higher studies, science and humanities both, were strongly promoted and were the first group to grow up during the country's reform and opening up days."

CPC Jilin Provincial Committee Secretary Wang Min is a typical example of a highly educated leader. He holds a doctor's degree from Nanjing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics and has expert knowledge in social administration.

"This is an era of management and economics and the Internet. That possibly has impelled the Party to absorb more better-educated officials," Li says.

The change in selection criteria reflects the new demands of social development, says Cai Xia, CPC Party School professor. After the foundation of the People's Republic of China, the leaders came mainly from among those who had participated in the country's revolutionary wars.

But once China launched its reforms and opened up to the outside world, the emphasis shifted to technological development. Besides, the country's social structure and society's expectation have changed greatly since the 1990s.

"Earlier the emphasis was on rapid increase in production. Now, the country needs cadres who have the capability to manage social issues comprehensively. We not only need officials who have engineering degrees, but also those who have their own philosophical way of managing their fields," Cai says.

The shift in the government's role from directly managing State-owned enterprises (SOEs) to focusing on all-around social development has also led to the change, says Xu.

Deputy head of CPC's Organization Depertment Ou Yangsong says the change is the result of higher inner-Party democracy, which will get a boost because of the cut in the number of deputy chiefs.

One of the aims of the latest leadership reshuffle was to eliminate the widespread practise of decision-making by a small circle, comprising the Party's chief and vice-chiefs, says China National School of Administration professor Gong Weibin. The cut in the number of deputy secretaries means the functions of the provincial CPC body's standing committee increase, which in turn will help strengthen inner-Party democracy.

But, Gong says, "dictative" Party chiefs with powers concentrated in their hands can still be found in some cities. "The problem of power concentrating in the hands of a few cannot be solved by just reshuffling the leadership. For that complementary measures of public, administrative information, promoting public participation and building an accountability system have to be implemented."

Besides building inner-Party democracy, the central government has also focused on the construction of the Party. Several corrupt senior Party leaders, including former Shanghai Party chief Chen Liangyu, have been expelled to pave the way for a clean leadership.

Before the reshuffle, the CPC Central Committee appointed the disciplinary authorities of the four municipalities of Beijing, Shanghai, Tianjin and Chongqing from other provinces or from central organs.

For instance, Ma Zhipeng, a Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) standing committee member, was made secretary to the Beijing Commission for Discipline Inspection.

Source: China Daily

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