Cablegate: Guizhou: Portrait of a Self-Promoting Communist Youth League

DE RUEHCN #0296/01 3430826
P 090826Z DEC 09




E.O. 12958: N/A

CHENGDU 00000296 001.2 OF 002

1. (U) This cable contains sensitive but unclassified
information - not for distribution on the Internet.

2. (SBU) Summary: At 39 years old, Chen Cangxu has been the
Secretary of the Guizhou Communist Youth League (GCYL) for the
last two years. Over dinner, Chen told Consul General how he
had leveraged the anti-poverty program of another man -- similar
to Mao's 1960s elevation of the model soldier Lei Feng -- to win
national acclaim for himself. With little more than a high
school degree, Chen has risen quickly within the Guizhou Party
apparatus, apparently because he is a "guanxi" (relationship)
builder extraordinaire. Despite the impressive career advances
of his predecessors as GCYL Secretary, we predict Chen's weak
educational background will cause his career to plateau below
the national level. A December 6 news report in Chongqing
suggests that most top Chinese leaders are much better educated
than Chen, although Chen's background in the Communist Youth
League -- the power base of Chinese President Hu Jintao -- may
prove us wrong. End Summary.

Chen's Early Rise through the Ranks and the Spring Sun Action

--------------------------------------------- ----------------

3. (SBU) In a November meeting abruptly arranged hours before
our arrival to Guiyang, GCYL Secretary Chen Cangxu regaled CG
with his accomplishments and rapid rise within Guizhou politics.
Chen was introduced by Hu Chuanyu, an assistant who spent much
of the first 15 minutes doting over Chen's biography. Chen was
born into a poor, rural family in Ziqiang village in Zhengan
County, Guizhou. After graduating from high school, Chen
returned to Ziqiang to do farm work. Chen joined the Communist
Party shortly thereafter, and rose to Zhengan County magistrate
in 2001.

4. (SBU) Speaking in a thick local accent, the short,
square-shouldered Chen proudly boasted of his proletarian
beginnings and his determination to serve his hometown of
Ziqiang. There, as magistrate of Zhengan County, he discovered
Zheng Chuanlou -- whom Chen propagandized into an iconic figure
similar to Mao's 1960s selfless hero-soldier "Lei Feng." After
graduating from college, Zheng returned to his hometown of
Ziqiang in 1988 to improve quality of life in the poor village,
Chen explained. Zheng organized the building of bridges, roads,
piping systems, schools, and other infrastructure. He also
instituted training programs to improve farmers' skills as
migrant workers.

5. (SBU) Chen named Zheng's program the "Spring Sun Action" and
promoted it throughout Guizhou. This successful program quickly
caught the attention of Beijing policymakers, Chen claimed.
After only one year as Zhengan County magistrate, Chen was made
Vice-Secretary of the GCYL in 2002, based in large part on his
success in promoting the Spring Sun Action. In 2007, Chen was
again promoted to GCYL Secretary, his current position.

Conclusions on Future of Chen Cangxu


6. (SBU) The ever fawning Hu was quick to remind us that the
position of GCYL Secretary has historically been a launching pad
for higher office. Wang Shanyun, Governor of Anhui, and Long
Chaoyun, Vice-Chairman of Guizhou Chinese People's Political
Consultative Conference, were previously GCYL Secretaries. Even
Party Secretary Hu Jintao had his beginnings in the China Youth
League, he noted. After Chen departed, Hu added that, although
Chen only possessed a high school degree, he had recently
completed studies in Party Thought at Beijing's Central Party
School. (Note: Recent Beijing initiatives have stressed that
government leaders at all levels must possess at least an
associate's degree. This has created pressure for public
officials to complete any degree in any field without necessary
enhancing their actual skill sets. End Note.)

CHENGDU 00000296 002.2 OF 002

Comment: A Good Self-Promoter, But National Prominence Unlikely

--------------------------------------------- ------------------

7. (SBU) Our meeting ended abruptly about 45 minutes after it
began. Chen received a phone call and abandoned his guests for
another "important meeting" -- an unlikely event at eight
o'clock on a Sunday night. Whatever the reality, our impression
of Chen was one of an "operator," a man who built his career in
part on the accomplishments of others. By elevating Zheng
Chuanlou to a Lei Feng-like status, Chen has craftily created
political opportunity and capitalized on his one abundant
talent: marketing.

8. (SBU) In the modern Chinese Communist Party, we believe that
most party officials like Chen will increasingly hit a glass
ceiling and never reach the national spotlight. The current
generation of Beijing's leadership is well-educated, often with
technocratic and scientific backgrounds, and increasingly with
degrees in the social sciences and law. Many observers believe
China's next generation of national leaders will be even better
educated, and possess some foreign policy experience -- two
plusses that Chen lacks. An interesting development will be how
Chen progresses at the Guizhou provincial level. In one of
China's poorest provinces, and one of its most politically
conservative, opportunistic leaders crafted in the
revolutionary-era mold might yet find career avenues.

Chongqing Newspaper Analyzes Careers of China's Top Leaders

--------------------------------------------- --------------

9. (SBU) A recent news report in the mainland press provides
further insights into the typical profiles of China's top party
leaders. According to the December 6 "Chongqing Evening News,"
as re-reported in the December 7 "South China Morning Post," top
provincial cadres usually work their way up the career ladder
from low positions in state-owned enterprises, colleges, or the
military. Ninety percent of the 31 current provincial party
chiefs have completed undergraduate or higher studies, and more
than half have experience in both central and local governments.
The average age at which they became mayors or chiefs of big
counties was 41, which was "at least 5-10 years earlier" than
other officials of similar rank. More than half were governors
at an average age of 53, and they became party chiefs at an
average age of 57. Potential top party leaders at the national
level often needed the experience of two or three top provincial
posts; eight of nine members of the current Politburo Standing
Committee worked as provincial bosses before their ascent to the
top ranks, with Premier (and geologist) Wen Jiabao the only

10. (SBU) However, officials who have a background in the
Communist Youth League -- the power base of President Hu Jintao
-- can be significantly younger. Hu Chunhua, previously first
secretary of the youth league secretariat and reportedly one of
Hu Jintao's closest allies, was named party boss in Inner
Mongolia, the news report says. In that case, perhaps Chen's
background in the Communist Youth League -- the power base of
Chinese President Hu Jintao -- may help him prove us wrong.

© Scoop Media

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