Xi and Wen do battle on the bookshelves

Xi and Wen do battle on the bookshelves

BEIJING - Retired Chinese leaders Jiang Zemin, Zhu Rongji and Li Peng did battle on the bestsellers list when their books hit the shelves earlier this year.

Giving them a run for their money are President Xi Jinping and retired premier Wen Jiabao, whose books were launched in recent weeks.

The latest releases, besides highlighting a thriving trade in books by Chinese political leaders, also sparked speculation about their political significance since they came out not long before a four-day key meeting of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) kicked off last Saturday.

Mr Xi's book consists of a collection of speeches he made when he was party boss of coastal Zhejiang province from 2002 to 2007, though the publisher said it has some new material.

Mr Wen's book carries a selection of his speeches, letters and conversations on education from 1996 to February this year before he retired as premier.

Analyst Steve Tsang of the University of Nottingham believes that Mr Xi's book is a way for the Chinese leader to assert himself as the head of the CCP.

It is "an authorised publication designed to present a public image of Xi as Xi would have liked", he told The Straits Times.

"Unlike his two immediate predecessors, particularly Hu Jintao, Xi is keen to assert himself as leader of the party, not just as the head of a collective leadership," he added.

Renmin University political analyst Zhang Ming said having a new book would give Mr Wen an opportunity to make a public appearance, which he can use "to stop talk that his family is being investigated". This arose after The New York Times ran an expose about the Wen family's wealth last year.

Mr Wang Xiaodong, vice-president of the China Booksellers and Publishers Association, however, thinks it would be easy to read too much into the book launches.

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