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Communist Party chooses rising star to be Shanghai boss

March 25, 2007|Mark Magnier | Times Staff Writer

BEIJING — The Chinese Communist Party announced Saturday that it had chosen an economic reformer and rising star to oversee Shanghai, replacing an official who was ousted in a corruption scandal.

The promotion of Xi Jinping to Shanghai party secretary was revealed in a one-sentence statement from the New China News Agency. It gave no details on when Xi was named, although rumors of the move have been circulating. Xi most recently served as party secretary for the booming province of Zhejiang south of Shanghai.

The appointment should help stabilize Shanghai politically and help it get back to business. Xi's predecessor, Chen Liangyu, was ousted last fall over charges that he allowed cronies to improperly use proceeds from social security funds for highway, real estate and other speculative investments.

The scandal has cast a pall over investments in China's richest and most international city and sent political shockwaves farther afield. Chen was a protege of former President Jiang Zemin, and the accusations against him were widely seen as a move by President Hu Jintao to strengthen party loyalty.

Chen has been detained, although no information has been released on what penalties he might face. State media have said at least nine former officials will be prosecuted in the case.

Xi, who has degrees in chemical engineering and law, is a so-called princeling, a child of former Chinese leaders who has benefited from his parents' connections and prestige. His father, Xi Zhongxun, was a significant figure in the 1949 Communist revolution.

Xi Jinping was named to the Shanghai position in part because he has experience on the front lines of economic reform, has good Communist Party connections and is an outsider in Shanghai, said He Hushang, professor of Communist Party history at People's University in Beijing.

"This is a good move," He said. "It promises to stabilize the Shanghai situation and resolve the overhang in advance of the 17th Party Congress" in October, a key date in China's political calendar.

Xi, 53, a member of the party's elite Central Committee, built his reputation as an economic reformer over several postings. Before serving as party boss in Zhejiang, Xi was governor of Fujian province near Hong Kong, where he was credited with attracting investment from Taiwan despite the political differences between the island and the mainland.

In Zhejiang, Xi stressed building regional links with Shanghai and the broader Yangtze River delta and spurred local industries to become more competitive, said Yang Jianwen, vice director of the Institute of National Economy at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences.

"Xi has a good strategic sense, sees the region as a whole and has good connections, all of which should benefit Shanghai in the next round of development," Yang said.

The party has been grooming Xi. In addition to a succession of high-profile posts, he headed a party delegation to North Korea in 2005 during one of Beijing's efforts to restart nuclear disarmament talks. But there was no indication he was involved in nuclear diplomacy.

Xi also knows U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. from Paulson's former role as chief executive of investment bank Goldman Sachs. Paulson started his trip to China in September by dining with Xi.

Yin Lijin in The Times' Beijing Bureau and Cao Jun in the Shanghai Bureau contributed to this report.

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