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Cablegate: Contacts Assess Hu Jintao´S Strength After The

DE RUEHBJ #7004/01 3110500
O 070500Z NOV 07


E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/07/2032



Classified By: Ambassador Clark T. Randt, Jr.
Reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).


1. (C) Chinese President Hu Jintao succeeded in further
elevating his authority at the recently completed 17th
Communist Party Congress, most Embassy contacts believe,
though they differ to what extent. A minority of observers,
however, argue he fell short of his goals. Despite Hu´s
apparent gains, local observers are in broad agreement that
Hu is not as powerful as past supreme Party leaders, and most
take this as a positive sign of a more collective,
institutionalized leadership, eschewing the "strongman"
politics associated with past leaders such as Mao Zedong and
Deng Xiaoping. On personnel decisions at the Congress,
sources acknowledge that Hu had to accommodate other
interests within the Party, although they disagree over the
implications of the new Politburo Standing Committee (PBSC)
lineup on Hu´s influence. Some focus on Hu´s having achieved
his top priorities, namely pushing out Zeng Qinghong and
elevating his protege Li Keqiang, while others assert that Hu
and his allies still remain a minority on the PBSC. Turning
to the Congress´s policy outcomes, sources emphasize that the
elevation of Hu Jintao´s "Scientific Development Concept
(SDC)" and its incorporation into the Party Constitution mean
that Hu´s policies will guide the Party for the next five
years, though serious challenges to their implementation
remain. End Summary.

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Collective Leadership: "Kinder and Gentler" Politics?
--------------------------------------------- ---------

2. (C) A key issue for local observers as they try to make
sense of the recently completed 17th Communist Party Congress
(Ref B) is assessing General Secretary (and President) Hu
Jintao´s attempt at the Congress to consolidate his power and
leave his stamp on the Party in the coming five years and
beyond. Virtually all contacts believe Hu emerged from the
Congress stronger than he was in 2002, when he had just been
named General Secretary at the 16th Party Congress and yet
was still surrounded by the cronies of his predecessor Jiang
Zemin, who also stayed on until 2004 as head of the Central
Military Commission. Yet contacts differ considerably on
just how much power and influence Hu Jintao has.

3. (C) While stronger than before, Hu Jintao falls short of
the overwhelming dominance of previous supreme Party leaders,
according to almost all Beijing observers with whom we have
spoken. Most contacts view this as a positive trend,
indicating a more collective, institutionalized leadership
that eschews the "strongman" politics associated with past
leaders like Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping. [TEXT REMOVED BY AFTENPOSTEN] , told Poloffs on October 31 that,
from Mao Zedong on, each successive General Secretary has
been weaker than his predecessor, reflecting a maturation of
Chinese politics, a desire to avoid duplicating the past
excesses brought about by one-man rule and an attempt to
ensure stability within the Party. Under Hu Jintao, the
leadership has become even more "collective," and instead of
employing the "brutal" and often "bloody" methods of someone
like Mao, Hu practices a "kinder and gentler" (wenhe he
shanliang) style of politics that emphasizes accommodation
and compromise, [TEXT REMOVED BY AFTENPOSTEN] asserted.

4. (C) A range of other contacts agree that the trend is
toward a more collective leadership. [TEXT REMOVED BY AFTENPOSTEN], who has direct access to
sources in Zhongnanhai, told Poloff on October 23 that,
whatever one thinks about Hu Jintao, the increasing
"institutionalization" of the Chinese leadership has
prevented a "dictatorship" by the Party General Secretary,
which can "only be good" for China. [TEXT REMOVED BY AFTENPOSTEN]
commented to Poloffs on October 30 that at the same time Hu
Jintao has made gains in consolidating his power, the
leadership has also become increasingly "collective." [TEXT REMOVED BY AFTENPOSTEN]
did not believe that this trend necessarily was good for
China, however, passionately arguing that, whatever the power
arrangements at the top of the Party, it continues headed
down the "wrong path," taking no measures to relax the
Party´s dictatorial grip on power, which eventually will
spell its doom.

Personnel: How Did Hu Fare?

5. (C) The makeup of China´s new leaders announced on October
22 (Ref B) is one indication of the increasingly balanced
nature of the Chinese leadership, Embassy contacts emphasize.
Post´s sources acknowledge that, in making personnel
decisions, Hu obviously had to accommodate other interests
within the Party with an eye toward maintaining Party
stability and a smooth transition of power in 2012. Neither
Hu nor anyone else has the "right" or the ability to
designate his own successor. Nevertheless, contacts disagree
over the personnel decisions´ implications for Hu´s influence
and his stature within the Party.

Some See a Strengthened Hu

6. (C) A number of contacts, for example, have said the
General Secretary did well in terms of the new PBSC
appointments, thereby strengthening his position. [TEXT REMOVED BY AFTENPOSTEN], who has enjoyed close contact with
several of China´s top leaders and is now a private
businessman, told Poloff on October 24 that we should be
cautious in declaring a Hu "victory" or "defeat" at the
Congress, but Hu nevertheless "did extremely well." No one
can get everything they want in life, not even the CCP
General Secretary. But Hu achieved his two most important
objectives: removal of powerful Vice President Zeng Qinghong
and elevation of his protege Li Keqiang to the PBSC. Thus,
Hu could "afford" to compromise on everything else, [TEXT REMOVED BY AFTENPOSTEN]
argued. Hu´s strength is all the more evident, given that
remaining PBSC members such as Jia Qinglin and Li Changchun
are relatively "weak" and pose "no threat." Xi Jinping is
"perfectly acceptable" to Hu Jintao as a young leader with
broad support within the Party. Even if new PBSC members He
Guoqiang and Zhou Yongkang are close to Zeng Qinghong, Hu can
work with them, and none of the new appointments have
anywhere near the influence and stature that Zeng Qinghong

7. (C) Professor [TEXT REMOVED BY AFTENPOSTEN] of the
Central Party School (CPS) separately agreed that Hu Jintao
is "much stronger" coming out of the Congress. In an October
26 conversation, [TEXT REMOVED BY AFTENPOSTEN] said that Hu was "in charge" at the
17th Party Congress, unlike in 2002, when the entire
personnel process was "rigged" by Jiang Zemin. This time
around, even though Hu was unable to force out Jiang allies
like Jia Qinglin, there was agreement on relying on the
"67/68 age rule," which was the only "easy," and "smart" way
for Hu to effect personnel change. Hu pushed Zeng Qinghong
out and got his man Li Keqiang on the PBSC. Moreover,
exercising his prerogative as General Secretary, Hu approved
all of the new members of the PBSC. Even if new PBSC members
He Guoqiang and Zhou Yongkang were put forward by Zeng, Hu
still found them acceptable, and there is "no way" that they
will form some kind of opposition to Hu. Moreover, Xi
Jinping is not beholden to either Zeng Qinghong or Jiang
Zemin, even if they were partially behind his elevation. Hu
Jintao accepts and recognizes Xi´s standing and popularity
within the Party, [TEXT REMOVED BY AFTENPOSTEN] said, claiming it is not necessarily
the case that Hu insisted on Li Keqiang as his successor.

Others Point to a "Mixed" Outcome

8. (C) Other observers saw the Congress personnel outcomes
for Hu as "mixed." For example, [TEXT REMOVED BY AFTENPOSTEN] said
that the Congress personnel outcomes showed Hu to be "not
that powerful." Though Hu did not do particularly well on
PBSC appointments, he fared better in appointments to the
larger Politburo, where he promoted at least three of his
Communist Youth League (CYL) proteges. [TEXT REMOVED BY AFTENPOSTEN] likewise said he thought the personnel
outcomes showed Hu to be only "a bit stronger."
Nevertheless, he said, even though Hu could not dictate all
positions and had to settle for an outcome reflecting balance
among Party factions, it is important to note that there is
no longer anyone who can directly oppose Hu and his policies,
meaning that Hu is likely "satisfied" with the results of the

While Some Focus on Constraints to Hu´s Power

9. (C) On the opposite end of the spectrum, some contacts
emphasized that the Congress´s personnel decisions revealed
Hu´s "weakness." Longtime Embassy contact [TEXT REMOVED BY AFTENPOSTEN], professor at [TEXT REMOVED BY AFTENPOSTEN], told Poloff October 24
that Hu remains "in the minority" on the PBSC, which shows
that his power is "not all that consolidated." [TEXT REMOVED BY AFTENPOSTEN] confessed that he was "somewhat disappointed" in the outcome,
noting that going into the Congress he had thought Hu was
much stronger. Although Hu is "slightly better off" that he
was in 2002, he is nowhere near where some thought he would
be, and is "much weaker" than his predecessors, [TEXT REMOVED BY AFTENPOSTEN] said.
[TEXT REMOVED BY AFTENPOSTEN] conceded that Hu succeeded in forcing Zeng Qinghong out,
but in return he had to agree to at least two, if not three,
people put forth by Zeng. [TEXT REMOVED BY AFTENPOSTEN] also said he thought one
could see Jiang Zemin´s hand at work in the personnel
appointments, stating that, in his view, Jiang´s influence
remains more significant than Zeng´s.

10. (C) [TEXT REMOVED BY AFTENPOSTEN] University Professor [TEXT REMOVED BY AFTENPOSTEN] also stressed the constraints on Hu Jintao´s power,
telling Poloff on October 25 that he "sensed" Jiang Zemin is
still exerting considerable influence, having successfully
kept his allies on the PBSC while also elevating new ones.
[TEXT REMOVED BY AFTENPOSTEN], a pro-democracy scholar at
the [TEXT REMOVED BY AFTENPOSTEN] think tank, told
Poloff October 22 that, in his view, Jiang Zemin and Zeng
Qinghong´s combined influence over the new leadership has
actually increased. At a minimum, four of the new PBSC
members are "Jiang/Zeng faction members," including Jia
Qinglin, Li Changchun, He Guoqiang and Zhou Yongkang. Hu can
only count on Wen Jiabao and Li Keqiang as cloe allies,
while Wu Bangguo and Xi Jinping wil be "neutral" figures.
Thus, [TEXT REMOVED BY AFTENPOSTEN] concluded, Hu will have a "difficult" next five
years, being forced to govern from a "minority" position.

The Role of "Factions": Divergent Views

11. (C) Part of the reason for the divergence in views on how
Hu fared in the Congress personnel outcomes appears to stem
from contacts´ contrasting views on the role of "factions"
within the top leadership. As noted above, those tending to
believe Hu fell short of his goals in terms of personnel
decisions viewed the appointments largely in factional terms,
stressing that several PBSC members remain "loyal" to the
"Jiang Zemin/Zeng Qinghong faction." [TEXT REMOVED BY AFTENPOSTEN], for example, said the PBSC personnel
outcomes represent a relatively equal division of power among
1) the Hu Jintao/CYL, 2) Shanghai/Jiang Zemin and 3) Retired
Cadre "factions." Among the larger Party and society as a
whole, [TEXT REMOVED BY AFTENPOSTEN] saw things as breaking down into factions on the
Left and Right, with the "Old Left" and "New Left" on one
side and the "Liberals" and "Democrats" on the other. For
Ma, therefore, the Congress results can be summarized in the
following factional terms: Party leaders, who are divided
into the Hu/CYL, Shanghai and retired cadres factions,
divvied up the personnel appointments, while together these
three elite factions decided to chart a "middle course"
between the "Left" and "Right" factions of the larger Party
and society.

12. (C) Several other observers, by contrast, particularly
those who thought Hu did very well at the Congress, argue
that Chinese politics is much more complex than a simple
notion of "factions." For example, [TEXT REMOVED BY AFTENPOSTEN]
adamantly declared that one cannot draw clear lines between
"so-called factions," arguing "China is not Japan." For
example, it would be "naive" to believe that just because He
Guoqiang and Zhou Yongkang were put forward by Zeng Qinghong,
they will take orders from Zeng and oppose Hu. [TEXT REMOVED BY AFTENPOSTEN] said
such a notion is "impossible," predicting that Zhou and He
will work with Hu, given Hu´s "much stronger" position as
separately agreed, saying that things are not so "neat and
tidy" at the top of the Party as to be divided into clearly
defined factions. Leaders cooperate and differ on various
issues, depending on the issue at hand. One example,
according to [TEXT REMOVED BY AFTENPOSTEN], is Beijing Mayor Wang Qishan, who was
just appointed to the Politburo. Although Wang is most often
viewed as a "princeling," given that he is the son-in-law of
former PBSC member Yao Yilin, in reality, Wang also has
"close ties" with Li Keqiang and the CYL group. Therefore,
"it is impossible" to predict Wang´s behavior based solely on
his supposedly belonging to the "princeling" faction, [TEXT REMOVED BY AFTENPOSTEN] asserted.

Policy: Hu´s Thought Guides Party, but Challenges Remain
--------------------------------------------- ------------

13. (C) While the assessments of what the Congress´s
personnel outcomes mean for Hu´s power vary considerably,
Embassy contacts agree that, in terms of policy, Hu fared
much better, having successfully achieved a great boost to
his "Scientific Development Concept" (SDC). In particular,
the attention given to the SDC in Hu´s Political Report to
the Congress, as well as its incorporation into the Party
Constitution, means that Hu´s ideas will guide the Party forthe next five years.

14. (C) Emphasizing Hu´s "dominance" in terms of policy, [TEXT REMOVED BY AFTENPOSTEN], told Poloff on October 23
that Hu Jintao is now in a "very stable" position regarding
policy matters, arguing that policy and personnel issues are
"completely separate." It is clear that "no one can
interfere" with Hu on policy, as Jiang Zemin had done in the
past. Although Hu must still deal with others, there is "no
serious opposition" to SDC. According to [TEXT REMOVED BY AFTENPOSTEN]´s research
across the country, a redistribution of wealth via increased
public investment at local levels is already happening and
will accelerate in the coming months. [TEXT REMOVED BY AFTENPOSTEN] agreed,
predicting that we will see Hu "move out" quickly to speed up
implementation of SDC, which faces no real opposition at the

15. (C) Echoing these sentiments, the
[TEXT REMOVED BY AFTENPOSTEN] said there is no credible opposition to the
SDC, remarking that it is "obvious" that the Party needs to
deal with the problems brought about by nearly 30 years of
economic reform and unchecked development. The SDC is the
"only realistic" response to these challenges and "suits the
times." [TEXT REMOVED BY AFTENPOSTEN] downplayed the SDC´s placement below that of
Deng Xiaoping´s and Jiang Zemin´s thought in terms of formal
status in the Party Constitution. SDC is clearly the Party´s
guiding policy for the next five years, [TEXT REMOVED BY AFTENPOSTEN] said. Moreover,
the gradual elevation of the SDC is part of Hu´s "strategy"
to slowly raise the stature of his thought while not
offending others and stressing continuity with past Party
policy. [TEXT REMOVED BY AFTENPOSTEN] saw things similarly, saying that even
though the SDC is not yet at the same level as Deng and
Jiang´s thought, it is still the center´s policy and the
guide to development, which is most crucial for the Party.
Not directly confronting Jiang by trying to elevate SDC to an
equivalent stature reflects Hu´s cautions, humble personality
and is likely part of Hu´s calm, patient approach. At the
same time, [TEXT REMOVED BY AFTENPOSTEN] said, it likely reflects the reality that, as
of now, Hu does not have the power to formally elevate his
thought further, though he should have "no problem" doing so
five years from now. Further underscoring Hu´s power over
policy, [TEXT REMOVED BY AFTENPOSTEN] argued, is his popularity among the "common
people" (laobaixing). [TEXT REMOVED BY AFTENPOSTEN] said even his own informal surveys
among blue collar workers and farmers across the country show
that they genuinely "like" and "support" Hu and Premier Wen
Jiabao, which lends further support to the SDC´s aim to
address development and income gaps.

16. (C) Despite Hu´s strength on the policy front, challenges
to implementation of the SDC remain. [TEXT REMOVED BY AFTENPOSTEN] noted that
Hu Jintao may be slightly more powerful, but he still faces
"serious opposition" to implementation of SDC at the local
level. [TEXT REMOVED BY AFTENPOSTEN] separately agreed, saying that it is local
officials, not princelings at the center, who pose a
challenge to Hu. The lower down one goes at the local level,
the stronger the opposition to SDC becomes, [TEXT REMOVED BY AFTENPOSTEN] asserted, as
most local leaders still want to focus solely on development
and "can´t be bothered" with things such as environmental

17. (C) Sounding the lone discordant note on Hu´s policy
"weakness" in terms of personnel translating directly into
"ifficulty" in implementing SDC, both locally and at the
center. For [TEXT REMOVED BY AFTENPOSTEN], Hu´s weakness in policy terms is
represented by his inability to inscribe the SDC into the
Party Constitution in a manner equal to Deng´s and Jiang´s
thought. (NOTE: It is important to recognize that Hu Jintao
is ahead of Jiang Zemin at a similar stage in his tenure as
Party General Secretary. Jiang did not get his thought into
the Party Constitution until he stepped down as Party chief.)
Moreover, [TEXT REMOVED BY AFTENPOSTEN] argued, Hu still is not referred to as "the
core" of the fourth generation of China´s leadership. [TEXT REMOVED BY AFTENPOSTEN]
saw a host of factors serving to frustrate implementation of
the SDC, the most important being the power of retired cadres
and their "princeling" sons and daughters, many of whom have
become China´s "vested interests," controlling major sectors
of China´s national economy and opposing the SDC,
particularly its notion of redistributing wealth to more
backward areas. Because of these disagreements, the Congress
placed great emphasis on "going back" to Deng Xiaoping
thought, which is the only thing upon which everyone could
agree, [TEXT REMOVED BY AFTENPOSTEN] asserted. As a result, [TEXT REMOVED BY AFTENPOSTEN] predicted that
China´s policy "stalemate" on SDC and other issues will
continue, with central policy directives remaining "unclear."

Implementation of Scientific Development the Key Measure?
--------------------------------------------- ------------

18. (C) Despite variations in contacts´ views on Hu Jintao´s power, all agreed that the coming months should provide a
clearer picture of Hu´s influence. Most important in this
regard, several contacts commented, is evidence of Hu´s
ability to quicken and expand implementation of his
Scientific Development Concept at the local level across

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