Wang Yang (politician)

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Wang Yang
汪洋
Wang Yang (Chinese politician) Washington 2013.jpg
Vice Premier of the People's Republic of China
Incumbent
Assumed office
16 March 2013
Serving with Zhang Gaoli, Liu Yandong, Ma Kai
Premier Li Keqiang
Preceded by Zhang Dejiang
Communist Party Secretary of Guangdong
In office
22 October 2007 – 18 December 2012
Preceded by Zhang Dejiang
Succeeded by Hu Chunhua
Communist Party Secretary of Chongqing
In office
December 2005 – October 2007
Preceded by Huang Zhendong
Succeeded by Bo Xilai
Personal details
Born (1955-03-12) 12 March 1955 (age 60)
Suzhou, Anhui, China
Nationality Chinese
Political party Communist Party of China
Alma mater Central Party School, College of Continuing Education
University of Science and Technology of China
Cabinet Li Keqiang Government
This is a Chinese name; the family name is Wang.

Wang Yang (Chinese: 汪洋; pinyin: Wāng Yáng; born 12 March 1955) is a high-ranking Chinese politician. He is one of the four Vice Premiers of China in Premier Li Keqiang's Government. Until January 2013, he served as the Communist Party Secretary of Guangdong; the southern Chinese province's top office. He served as the party secretary of Chongqing, an interior municipality, from 2005 to 2007. First as the holder of an important regional post, and now as a vice premier, Wang also holds a seat on the Politburo of the Communist Party of China, the country's ruling council.

Wang was seen as one of the leading reformers in China's top leadership, and is often credited with pioneering the Guangdong model of development, characterized by an emphasis on private enterprise, economic growth and a greater role for civil society. He was widely considered to be one of the most strongly 'liberal' members of the Chinese elite, advocating for economic and political reform.

Early life[edit]

Wang was born in Suzhou, Anhui, to an ordinary urban working class family. His father was a manual labourer.[1] Between 1972 and 1976, he worked as a food processing factory hand before being promoted to supervisor. He joined the Communist Party of China in 1975. He subsequently joined the local Party School as an instructor, before going on to study political economics at the dawn of Deng Xiaoping's economic reforms at the Central Party School in 1979. He returned to his hometown as a party policy instructor before joining the local Communist Youth League organization – where he would ascend to the provincial organization by 1984. He then moved on to work as the Deputy Director and Director of the Anhui Provincial Sports Bureau until 1988.

His first tenure with civil administration was in Tongling, Anhui, beginning in 1988. He would serve on the municipal administration as its deputy party secretary, acting mayor, and mayor, while also concurrently attempting to earn a degree in political administration at the Central Party School. He would rise to become the provincial Governor's assistant the following year, and promoted to Vice-Governor of Anhui between 1993 and 1998. He was finally sent to work in the central government as the deputy head of the National Development and Reform Commission, and then as deputy secretary general of the State Council between 2003 and 2005, in charge of the day-to-day administrative work of the State Council General Office.[2]

Chongqing[edit]

Wang served as the Party Committee Secretary in Chongqing, a western interior municipality, from 2005 to 2007. Wang's track record in Chongqing earned him national attention, for his work of bringing a geographically remote and relatively underdeveloped region onto the international scene. In Chongqing, Wang won praise for handling a sensitive urban demolition case. He was also the pioneer of media reforms in the municipality.[3] Since 1 January 2007, Chongqing media no longer gave priority to the activities of the city's municipal leaders in daily news broadcasts, instead focusing on stories about ordinary people, which resulted in an increase of coverage about agriculture, rural life and rural migrant workers.[3]

In 2007 Wang was succeeded as Chongqing party secretary by Bo Xilai. After taking Wang's place, Bo orchestrated a sweeping campaign against alleged local gangsters. Political observers noted that Bo's "crime"-fighting efforts were implicitly critical of Wang Yang, since Wang may now be criticized for tolerating the "mafia"-related corruption of the police and judiciary of Chongqing,[4] and for tolerating organized crime in general.[5] Bo Xilai was subsequently arrested for a variety of charges and sentenced to life imprisonment, and official evaluation of his "crime"-fighting campaign recognizes that it encompassed gross violations of civil rights, with almost 1,000 people sent to labor camps, and served to a large extent as a tool for Bo Xilai to consolidate power and take over economic resources.[6][7][8]

Guangdong[edit]

As part of a party-wide reshuffle of regional leaders, Wang Yang was slated to become Party Committee Secretary of Guangdong after the 17th Party Congress. He took on the post formally in November 2007. As the post was considered one of the most important regional leadership offices in China, he also earned a seat on the Communist Party's Politburo, the country's second-highest ruling council. Wang's entry to the Politburo came as a surprise to some observers, given that prior to 2007, he had not even held full membership in the Central Committee, a larger body composed of around 200 members consisting mostly of provincial- and minister-level party officials.

In Guangdong, Wang increasingly branded himself as a bold reformer. He was instrumental in pushing Guangdong province, already dubbed China's "breeding ground of reform", towards even greater economic and political freedoms.[9] Additionally, Wang sought to diversify the province's economy away from manufacturing, and make Shenzhen an innovation hub for China's new economy. Wang's unique leadership style set him apart from normally colourless and risk-averse provincial administrators who parrot the party line. He was often compared to Bo Xilai by political observers, as both Wang and Bo were seen as rising stars of Chinese politics vying for top office. Both held important regional offices that could be used as 'testing grounds' for policies that could eventually be implemented nationally.

Amid the global financial crisis of 2008, Guangdong faced a mass wave of bankruptcies of small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs). In response, Wang said that his administration will not intervene to prevent bankruptcies. He remarked that unprofitable SMEs are "not productive and will eventually be eliminated by the market."[10] After a visit to the Pearl River Delta by Premier Wen Jiabao, who was in favour of protecting small and medium-sized enterprises in order to prevent unemployment, the Wang-led Guangdong government showed resistance adhering to central government directives which called for heavier state intervention.[11]

In 2009, Wang wished to re-instate the May Day week-long holiday in Guangdong. The holiday was removed from the calendar by central authorities a few years earlier. However, the decision was subsequently reversed by the central government.

Wang won international praise for his handling of the Wukan protests in 2011. Wukan is a fishing village under the jurisdiction of the city of Shanwei; thousands of villagers rose in protest against what they saw as insufficient compensation for local residents during the sale of land by officials. Under Wang's leadership the provincial government offered concessions to protesting villagers and allowed local elections for a new village chief.[12]

During his term in Guangdong, Wang also became an outspoken critic of corruption and nepotism, reputedly putting him at odds with the family of the late general Ye Jianying. Ye's family had extensive economic and political interests in Guangdong and retained massive influence among the country's political elites, particularly the descendants of early Communist revolutionaries, better known as "Princelings". As a result, Wang's detractors considered him "politically unreliable", suggesting that Wang showed too much boldness in upstaging the status quo, under which most Princelings had benefited immensely.[1] Wang was widely touted in the lead up the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China as a rising star, likely slated for Politburo Standing Committee (PSC) membership in 2012. However, it was said that Wang's poor relations with the Ye family reduced his chances of entering the PSC.[1] Ultimately, the 18th PSC was dominated by people described as Princelings.[1]

Central Government[edit]

While Wang did not make it to the pinnacle of Chinese political life as was predicted early on by some observers, he was able to 'renew' his Politburo membership for another five-year term at the 18th Party Congress. He subsequently left his leadership post in Guangdong, succeeded by another rising political star, Hu Chunhua. In March 2013, Wang Yang was promoted to Vice Premier of Li Keqiang Government at the 2013 National People's Congress, overseeing portfolios of agriculture, water management, commerce, tourism, and poverty reduction.

In his capacity as Vice Premier, Wang frequently met with international dignitaries and accompanied Xi Jinping or Li Keqiang on trips abroad. However, his periodic displays of bold political views seem to have receded to the background as the new group of party leaders gradually coalesced around Xi Jinping's ideology. Following the 4th Plenum of the 18th Central Committee held in October 2014, Wang published an article on the party mouthpiece People's Daily in which he praised the legal reforms discussed at the plenum and said that China will learn from its own culture and experience and will never "copy models or philosophies of other countries" when it comes to legal reform.[13]

Wang has taken on several important roles in heading ad hoc policy coordination steering committees known as Central Leading Groups. He has, since 2013, been the leader of the Leading Group on Intellectual Property and Counterfeit Goods,[14] and also the leader of the State Council Leading Group on Poverty Reduction. He was also named in 2014 as the deputy leader of the Leading Group for Advancing the Development of One Belt One Road. Wang is considered a strong candidate for entry into the Politburo Standing Committee at the 19th Party Congress in 2017.[15]

Political positions and public image[edit]

Wang is often seen as a leading liberal in China's ruling elite, representing a school of thought that advocates for a greater role of the free market, gradual political liberalization, and a government that is more in touch with the needs of ordinary people.[16] Although he has been generally more daring in challenging party orthodoxy compared to his peers, analysts suggest that he is unlikely to directly challenge the party line.[16]

Wang is also seen as an advocate for market-based solutions to economic development. If economic growth were analogous to baking a cake, Wang said that the priority should be to "bake a cake" rather than to divide it, i.e., economic growth takes precedence over wealth re-distribution. This was in stark contrast to the "Chongqing model" advanced by Bo Xilai, which suggests that wealth should be re-distributed fairly first, or that wealth redistribution and economic growth can take place simultaneously.[17] Wang and Bo's opposing views on what was dubbed the "Cake Theory" have been characterized as an increasingly apparent "left-right" ideological divide within China's ruling elite.[17]

Wang is often seen smiling in public and has been known to shun hair dye, unlike most of his colleagues. Wang is also known to make offhand and often humorous remarks in public. As the top economic official representing China at the 2013 U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue, Wang compared the relationship between China and the United States as that of a married couple. In a session with U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, Wang remarked "I am aware that the US allows gay marriage, but I don't think Jacob and I have such intentions." He later added that China and the United States should not "choose the path of a divorce", stating, "like that of Wendy Deng and Rupert Murdoch, it is just too expensive".[18]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d Johnson, Ian (13 November 2012). "Dynasty of Different Order Is Reshaping China". New York Times. 
  2. ^ Xinhua's Official Biography of Wang
  3. ^ a b Fang, Tak-ho (3 May 2007). "Wang Yang: A rising star in China". Asia Times. Retrieved 26 March 2012. 
  4. ^ Ewing, Kent. (19 March 2010). "Bo Xilai: China's Brash Populist". Asia Times. Retrieved 16 June 2011.
  5. ^ Sisci, Francesco. (20 April 2011). "Bo Xilai Focuses Multiparty Vision". Asia Times. Retrieved on 16 July 2011.
  6. ^ Keith B. Richburg, After Bo's fall, Chongqing victims seek justice, The Washington Post, 19 April 2012.
  7. ^ Tania Branigan, Bo Xilai: downfall of a neo-Maoist party boss who got things done, The Guardian, 20 March 2012.
  8. ^ Dan Levin and Michael Wines, Cast of Characters Grows, as Does the Intrigue, in a Chinese Political Scandal, The New York Times, 8 March 2012.
  9. ^ [1] China's Shenzhen starts spreading the news
  10. ^ Oriental Daily. "Guangdong's regionalism and its disapproval from the Central Government (广东本位主义麻木不仁 中央很不满意)" (in Chinese). UKChinese.com. Retrieved 22 November 2009. 
  11. ^ "台媒:民生议题 温汪爆三次交锋". Duowei News. October 14, 2011. 
  12. ^ "Southern Chinese Leader Wang Yang's Star Rises With Angela Merkel's Visit". Bloomberg News. 2 February 2012. Retrieved 22 March 2012. 
  13. ^ "汪洋定调涉外法治 决不照搬外国模式". Duowei News. November 5, 2014. 
  14. ^ "汪洋在京主持召开全国打击侵权假冒工作领导小组第六次全体会议". 
  15. ^ "十九大常委布局引猜测 王岐山下王沪宁上?". Duowei News. February 11, 2015. 
  16. ^ a b Jacobs, Andrew (5 November 2012). "As China Awaits New Leadership, Liberals Look to a Provincial Party Chief". New York Times. 
  17. ^ a b Fang, Ming (14 July 2011). "路线之争?汪薄"蛋糕论"各出招 (Is Bo & Wang's spat a war over party line?)". Duowei. Retrieved 15 April 2012. 
  18. ^ Boehler, Patrick (11 July 2013). "Chinese vice-premier's gay marriage joke at US summit applauded at home". South China Morning Post. 

External links[edit]

Party political offices
Preceded by
Huang Zhendong
Communist Party Secretary of Chongqing
2005–2007
Succeeded by
Bo Xilai
Preceded by
Zhang Dejiang
Communist Party Secretary of Guangdong
2007–2012
Succeeded by
Hu Chunhua