A Smooth Transition

Jiang Zemin passes on the baton of military power to his former deputy


By TANG QINGHUA

For many Chinese, the news came as no big surprise when the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee accepted the resignation of Jiang Zemin, 78, from the chairmanship of the Central Military Commission (CMC) on the final day of a four-day plenum. The reins were handed to Hu Jintao, 61, completing a smooth power transition to a younger generation of Chinese military leadership.

The change means Hu now serves in his own triumvirate as Party chief, state president and military head as Jiang retires from his last formal position of power.

“It is to be expected,” said a civil servant in Beijing, who declined to be named, as Jiang himself took over the military job from his predecessor, the late paramount Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping, at the Fifth Plenum of the 13th CPC Central Committee 15 years ago.

Deng stepped down from the military post two years after quitting the all-powerful Political Bureau at the 13th CPC National Congress in 1987, while Jiang held onto his military post after quitting the Party’s top post of the Central Committee at the 16th CPC National Congress in November 2002, and stepped down from the state presidency months later.

Hu succeeded Jiang as Party chief in late 2002 and as president in early 2003. He had been a vice chairman of the commanding CMC since 1999.

Jiang Bows Out

The handover of the military job on September 19 came after mounting speculation that Jiang may have taken the escalating cross-strait tensions as an opportunity to stay on.

LEADERS THROUGH HISTORY: A visitor walks past the portraits of four generations of Chinese leaders: Mao Zedong, Deng Xiaoping, Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao (from left to right) at an exhibition in Shanghai

But that didn’t happen. Though no official reason for his quitting was available, Jiang, who had not been due to retire completely until 2007, said in a resignation letter dated September 1, that he “intended to resign from the current post, which is good for the development of the undertakings of the Party, the state and the armed forces.”

Jiang told the Party Central Committee he had decided to retire from Party and government positions hoping to “institutionalize, standardize, and proceduralize” generational transfers of power for state and Party leadership.

He also explained later while attending an enlarged meeting of the CMC that for a large party like the CPC and a large country like China, “it is not only necessary, but also the most appropriate option to adopt a three-in-one leadership system under which Party general secretary, state president and CMC chairman is the same person.”

Jiang proposed in his resignation letter that Hu succeed him as CMC chairman, saying Hu “is completely qualified for the post,” the same words Deng said to him 15 years ago.

Jiang made a wise choice to step down and recommend Hu to succeed him, which is conducive to consolidating China’s political stability, cementing the CPC’s governing capability and enhancing democracy inside the CPC, said an editorial in Hong Kong-based Ming Pao.

Under the 13-year leadership of Jiang, China achieved sustained and high economic growth, basic internal stability and smooth opening up, noted the editorial, crediting Jiang for his “good performance” as a national leader.

The communiqué of the plenum released by the official Xinhua News Agency also said Jiang had “grasped the development trends of new military reforms in the world with his great insight” and had enriched the military ideology of Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping to “found the Jiang Zemin thought for national defense and military development.”

“Giving up his position for the future of China’s political system, replacing the old with the new is good advancement,” said a comment on BBS of sina.com.

In a newscast televised by the state-run China Central Television, Jiang, accompanied by Hu who addressed him as “our respected Comrade Jiang Zemin,” met with all those present at the plenum after the session.

Jiang first thanked the Party Central Committee for accepting his resignation as CMC chairman, and then extended “heartfelt gratitude” to all comrades of the Party for their support during his tenure. Flushed with emotion, Jiang spoke, in his words: “from the bottom of my heart.”

“I hope that everyone will work hard and keep advancing under the leadership of the Party Central Committee with Comrade Hu Jintao as general secretary,” said Jiang.

Hu then thanked Jiang for his “emotional and important speech,” and paid “supreme respect” to him on behalf of all plenum delegates. The two shook hands amid an outburst of thunderous and prolonged applause while posing for photos.

Jiang further expressed his strong support for Hu while the two attended an enlarged CMC meeting after the closing of the plenum. He praised the 61-year-old Hu as a “young and energetic” leader with “rich leadership experience” and “excellent qualifications.”

Hu Steps Forward

Along with Jiang’s departure from his last post, Hu now became the undisputed leader of China. “The Hu Jintao era has started,” said a Chinese political analyst who asked not to be identified.

Most Chinese have faith in Hu. Seizing opportunity from crisis during the outbreak of SARS last year, Hu emerged from his first real test after declaring war on the epidemic. With decisiveness that surprised many, Hu ended a government cover-up, ordered honest reporting and sacked the health minister and the Beijing mayor.

Hu has built his popularity and charmed the nation with a refreshing people-first style. “Use power for the people, show concern for the people and seek benefit for the people,” said Hu in speeches.

Hu and Premier Wen Jiabao now appear to be guiding the world’s most populous nation and Asia’s fastest growing economy to a soft landing.

On the diplomatic front, Hu has built on new-found respect for Beijing after bringing Washington and Pyongyang to the negotiating table to defuse the Korean nuclear crisis.

But Hu’s succession was unlikely to result in dramatic changes to domestic, foreign and economic policies, as he sets to pursue the market reforms that have transformed China into the world’s seventh largest economy, analysts said.

The plenum communiqué reinforced expectations that the former hydraulic engineer would not stray from Jiang’s tough stand on using force to recover Taiwan if the island formally declares independence.

The Party “resolutely opposes and will contain ‘Taiwan independence’ splittist forces and unswervingly safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity,” it said.

The plenum also noted that maintaining long-term prosperity and stability of Hong Kong and Macao is a brand-new subject in the Party’s governance of the country under new circumstances.

It called for adherence to the principles of “one country, two systems,” “Hong Kong people governing Hong Kong,” “Macao people governing Macao” and a high degree of autonomy, strict observance of the basic laws of the special administrative regions, and continuous progress in implementing the cause of “one country, two systems.”

Military Committee Expanded

During the adjustment made by the plenum, Xu Caihou, 61, will succeed Hu as vice chairman of the military commission, Xinhua said.

Chen Bingde, Qiao Qingchen, Zhang Dingfa and Jing Zhiyuan, senior officers from the military, air, naval and artillery forces, respectively, were promoted to be members of the CMC.

Observers believe such an adjustment is made to adapt to the international situation changes and joint-force operations.

At the enlarged CMC meeting, both Jiang and Hu, wearing green military uniforms, called for unity in the military.

“If the military is internally united, and the military and the people are united, there is no difficulty that cannot be overcome,” Jiang said.

Jiang, though “happy for having completed his historical duty and fulfilled his historical responsibility,” was still concerned about the country’s sovereignty and security, as well as the military development.

“Even though I have stepped down, my heart will always be with the military,” he said.

CPC Rolls Out New Military Leadership

A change in leadership of the Central Military Commission (CMC) of the Communist Party of China (CPC) and a focus on improving the Party’s capacity in governing the country were the highlights of the Fourth Plenary Session of the 16th CPC Central Committee on September 16-19.

Hu Jintao, General Secretary of the CPC Central Committee and President of China, succeeded Jiang Zemin as Chairman of the CMC. Guo Boxiong, Cao Gangchuan and Xu Caihou were elected as vice chairmen of the CMC. Members of the CMC are Liang Guanglie, Li Jinai, Liao Xilong, Chen Bingde, Qiao Qingchen, Zhang Dingfa and Jing Zhiyuan.

Hu Jintao

—Chairman of the Central Military Commission of the CPC

A native of Jixi County, Anhui Province, Hu was born in December 1942. In 1959, he was enrolled by Tsinghua University and graduated from the Hydraulic Engineering Department in 1965.

Hu began to work at the grass-roots level in west China’s Gansu Province in 1968, remaining there until 1982 when he became a secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Youth League of China and chairman of the All-China Youth Federation. Beginning in 1985, he was appointed, successively, secretary of the CPC Guizhou Provincial Committee and of the CPC Tibet Autonomous Regional Committee.

In 1992, 49-year-old Hu was elected member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee at the First Plenum of the 14th CPC Central Committee, which was then widely considered as an important step the CPC had taken toward generational transition of the central leadership.

From 1993 to the end of 2002, Hu was concurrently president of the Party School of the CPC Central Committee, which has been the training base for senior CPC cadres and a backbone of theoretical studies over the past 70 years.

In September 1997, Hu was re-elected member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee at the First Plenum of the 15th CPC Central Committee.

Hu became vice president of China in March 1998 and vice chairman of the CMC in September 1999.

In November 2002, Hu was elected general secretary of the CPC Central Committee at the 16th National Congress of the CPC.

In March 2003, Hu was elected president of China at the First Session of the 10th National People’s Congress, the top legislature of the country.

In September 2004, Hu was elected chairman of the CMC.

Guo Boxiong

—Vice Chairman of the Central Military Commission of the CPC

A native of Liquan, Shaanxi Province, Guo was born in July 1942 and is of the Han ethnic group. He joined the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in August 1961 and graduated from the PLA Military Academy with a university education. Guo holds the military rank of general. He joined the CPC in March 1963.

Guo is currently a member of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee, vice chairman of the CMC, executive deputy chief of the Headquarters of the General Staff of the PLA and deputy secretary of the Party Committee of the Headquarters of the General Staff of the PLA.

1958-61: Worker at the No. 408 Factory of Xingping County, Shaanxi.

1961-64: Soldier, deputy squad leader and squad leader of the Eighth Company of the 164th Regiment of the 55th Division of the 19th Army of the PLA Ground Force.

1964-65: Platoon Commander of the Eighth Company of 164th Regiment of the 55th Division of the 19th Army of the PLA Ground Force.

1965-66: Staff member of the Publicity Group of the Political Section of the 164th Regiment of the 55th Division of the 19th Army of the PLA Ground Force.

1966-70: Staff of the Combat Training Group of the Headquarters of the 164th Regiment of the 55th Division of the 19th Army of the PLA Ground Force.

1970-71: Leader of the Combat Training Group of the Headquarters of the 164th Regiment of the 55th Division of the 19th Army of the PLA Ground Force.

1971-81: Staff officer, deputy head and head of the Combat Training Section of the Headquarters of the 19th Army of the PLA Ground Force.

1981-82: Chief of staff of the 55th Division of the 19th Army of the PLA Ground Force (Studied at the Military Academy of the PLA from September 1981 to July 1983).

1982-83: Deputy director of the Combat Department of the Headquarters of the Lanzhou Military Area Command.

1983-85: Chief of staff of the 19th Army of the PLA Ground Force.

1985-90: Deputy chief of staff of the Lanzhou Military Area Command.

1990-93: Commander of the 47th Group Army of the PLA Ground Force.

1993-97: Deputy commander of the Beijing Military Area Command.

1997-99: Commander of the Lanzhou Military Area Command.

1999-2002: Member of the CMC, executive deputy general chief of staff of the PLA and deputy secretary of the Party Committee of the PLA General Staff.

2002-04: Member of the CMC, executive deputy chief of the Headquarters of the General Staff of the PLA and deputy secretary of the Party Committee of the Headquarters of the General Staff of the PLA.

September 2004: Vice chairman of the CMC of the CPC.

Cao Gangchuan

—Vice Chairman of the Central Military Commission of the CPC

A native of Wugang, Henan Province, Cao Gangchuan was born in December 1935 of the Han ethnic group. He joined the PLA in July 1954 and the CPC in July 1956. Graduated from the Military Engineering School of the Artillery Corps of the Soviet Union, he holds the military rank of general.

Cao is now a member of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee, vice chairman of the CMC of the CPC, and director and secretary of the Party committee of the PLA General Armament Department.

1954-56: Student of Nanjing Third Artillery Ordnance Technical School and No.1 Ordnance Technical School; teacher of the No.1 Ordnance Technical School in 1956.

1956-57: Student of the PLA Dalian Russian-Language School.

1957-63: Student of Military Engineering School of the Artillery Corps of the Soviet Union.

1963-69: Assistant of Ammunition Division of Ordnance Department of the PLA General Logistics Department.

1969-75: Assistant of Munitions Division of Military Equipment Department of the PLA General Logistics Department.

1975-82: Staff officer and deputy director of General Planning Division of Military Equipment Department of the PLA Headquarters of the General Staff.

1982-89: Deputy director of Military Equipment Department of the PLA Headquarters of the General Staff.

1989-90: Director of Military Affairs Department of the PLA Headquarters of the General Staff.

1990-92: Director of the Office of Military Trade of the CMC.

1992-96: Deputy chief of the General Staff of the PLA.

1996-98: Minister of the Commission of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense.

1998-98: Director of the PLA General Armament Department.

1998-2002: Member of the CMC; director and secretary of the Party committee of the PLA General Armament Department.

2002-September 2004: Member of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee, vice chairman of the CMC; director and secretary of the Party committee of the PLA General Armament Department.

Xu Caihou

—Vice Chairman of the Central Military Commission of the CPC

Xu Caihou, a native of Wafangdian, Liaoning Province, was born in June 1943. He joined the army in August 1963 and the CPC in April 1971. Graduated from the Electronics Engineering Department of Harbin Institute of Military Engineering, Xu holds the military rank of general.

Xu is now vice chairman of the CMC, member of the Secretariat of the CPC Central Committee, director of the General Political Department of the PLA and concurrently secretary of the Discipline Inspection Committee of the Central Military Commission.

1963-68: Student in the Electronics Engineering Department of the Harbin Institute of Military Engineering.

1968-70: Sent to the farm of the 39th Army to do manual labor.

1970-71: Sent as a soldier to the Sixth Company, the Second Battalion of the Third Regiment of the Independent Division of the Jilin Provincial Military Command.

1971-72: Deputy political instructor of the Second Company of the First Battalion of the Third Artillery Regiment of the Third Division of the Garrison of the Shenyang Military Area Command.

1972-82: Secretary and deputy chief of the Personnel Division of the Political Department of the Jilin Military Area Command (studied at the PLA Institute of Political Sciences from October 1980 to August 1982).

1982-83: Chief of the Personnel Division of the Political Department of the Jilin Provincial Military Command and concurrently chief of the office for retirees.

1983-84: Deputy director of the Political Department of the Jilin Provincial Military Command.

1984-85: Director of the Mass Work Section of the Political Department of the Shenyang Military Area Command.

1985-90: Director of the Political Department of the 16th Group Army of the Ground Force.

1990-92: Political commissar of the 16th Group Army of the Ground Force.

1992-93: Assistant to the director of the PLA General Political Department.

1993: Assistant to the director of the PLA General Political Department and concurrently director of the Liberation Army Daily.

1993-94: Deputy director of the PLA General Political Department and concurrently director of the Liberation Army Daily.

1994-96: Deputy director of the PLA General Political Department.

1996-99: Political commissar of the Jinan Military Area Command.

1999-2000: Member of the CMC and executive deputy director of the PLA General Political Department.

2000-02: Member of the CMC and executive deputy director of the PLA General Political Department and concurrently secretary of the Discipline Inspection Committee of the Central Military Commission and deputy secretary of the Party Committee of the PLA General Political Department.

2002: Member of the Secretariat of the CPC Central Committee, member of the CMC, director of the PLA General Political Department and concurrently secretary of the Discipline Inspection Committee of the CMC.

In March 2003, he was also appointed vice chairman of the CMC of the CPC, and reappointed in September 2004.