China’s “two sessions”, or “lianghui”, have been nothing but a vanity fair for senior cadres, old-line party members and the super rich handpicked by the Communist Party to attend the meetings of the National People’s Congress (NPC) or the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC).
One of them is Shen Jilan who has been an “elected” national delegate since the first NPC annual session in 1954.
In the 60 years she has been attending the parliamentary sessions, she has never voted against a bill and has gone wherever the wind blows.
This year, however, is different.
Beijing has spared no effort in putting up a united front but disunity among feuding cliques in the Communist Party is tearing at its fabric in the background.
Since Xi Jinping began a sweeping anti-graft purge last year, bringing down cadres of all ranks regardless of political connection, there has been little effort to show artificial harmony this year.
In fact, those with ties to fallen cadres and others on the fringes of the corruption crackdown have had to decide whether or not to attend.
Those decisions, obviously, have not been easy. Absence from these events could be easily misinterpreted as a sign the person concerned has something to hide or is under investigation.
Wang Hong, a People’s Liberation Army (PLA) general who was removed from the post of manager of the PLA’s August First Film Studio, showed up amid rumors he is under investigation for his alleged ties to Xu Caihou, the disgraced former vice chairman of the Central Military Commission.
Wang is not the only top cadre to be stripped of his official position without being charged. Environmental chief Zhou Shengxian has been moved to a nominal role in the CPPCC.
The only thing we can say about them and many others is that they are safe for now.
But some officials are feeling the heat more than others.
In a recent online essay, Zeng Qinghong’s personal secretary Shi Zhihong jumped to the defense of his ex-boss who has been implicated in a corruption scandal.
Zeng is a former state vice president and a retired politburo standing committee member.
This year’s sessions are in sharp contrast to the events of 2012 when then Premier Wen Jiabao appeared on the same stage as troubled Chongqing party chief Bo Xilai.
Wen waited until the last day to tear Bo apart in a public shaming that would lead to the latter’s downfall months later.
One wonders whether the present crop is even in the mood to deliberate on the nation’s affairs.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Mar. 9.
Translation by Frank Chen
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