Xi continues clashing horns with party elders

Xi continues clashing horns with party elders
Former Chinese Presidents Hu Jintao (left) and Jiang Zemin
PHOTO: Nikkei Asian Review

TOKYO - In China, even after a new leader takes office, his predecessor often continues to wield power through the numerous senior officials he installed -- whether in the Communist Party, the military or the government - before stepping down.

"When China's leadership succession takes place, the outgoing leader sets his hook cunningly," one Beijing resident - a longtime acquaintance of this reporter - said sometime between 2002 and 2003, when China saw the transfer of power from Jiang Zemin to Hu Jintao. "It is a ruthless practice aimed at showing off his influence even after retirement. Such is the case with companies as well as the government."

Even after retiring as Chinese president and general secretary of the Communist Party, Jiang remained at the helm of the military as chairman of the Central Military Commission for a while. During that time, he tapped Guo Boxiong and Xu Caihou, his proteges in the military, as vice chairmen of the powerful commission. It was not until the autumn of 2004 that Hu took over from Jiang as the body's chairman.

Once he did, he found himself in a difficult position. Guo, Xu and other military officers loyal to Jiang did not come to heel, and Hu eventually had to ask Jiang for behind-the-scenes manoeuvring to make military decisions.

Because of Jiang's continued influence, Hu was never able to take true control of the military. But the two former top uniformed officers, Guo and Xu, have had to face the music. The pair was recently branded "corruption personified" and driven out of office by incumbent President Xi Jinping, who succeeded Hu.

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