Fat Dragon has been around long enough to remember the similarly dramatic felling of Chen Xitong, the former Mayor of Beijing and one of the powers-that-be back in 1995.
Chen remains under a form of house arrest, believed to be in Inner Mongolia. No doubt he has lots of traditional amenities, such as ping-pong tables, to keep himself amused, but Club Med it ain’t.
The symmetry of Chen’s removal from the top post in Beijing by Jiang Zemin, the leader of the Shanghai faction, and the sacking a decade later of another Chen (no relation) provoked much commentary.
Seen through such a narrow prism, the latest sacking has been depicted as Beijing’s revenge on Shanghai, of "the empire strikes back" kind.
There is an element of truth in this. Shanghai was dominant in national politics for a long time and President Hu Jintao had to take the city’s interests into account as he built up his own power base.
Hu has handled this astutely, only rarely visiting the metropolis and making Shanghai conform to the macroeconomic strictures that all other cities have had to adhere to. He has never confronted Shanghai until now, and only when he has had clear evidence of corruption in hand.
In some respects, Chen has made it easy for him. His corruption has been blatant for some time, and he was lucky to survive a scandal surrounding property developer, Zhou Zhengyi, in 2003. Shanghai residents have long compared Chen unfavorably with his predecessors, such as Xu Kuangdi, the former mayor. Xu was upstanding and articulate, whereas Chen has a rough and almost thuggish manner.
But it is too easy to look at the scandal in a binary fashion, simply as a Beijing-versus-Shanghai phenomenon. There is more to it than that for a number a reasons.
The Shanghai gang is not the coherent faction it once was, for starters. Zeng Qinghong, who operated as a close adviser to Jiang Zemin, has morphed into a broader figure under Hu.
A classic machine politician, Zeng seems to have recognized that power has shifted under Hu and has chosen to work with him accordingly.
That is not to say that Chen’s removal is not intensely political. Obviously, it is. We are now just 12 months out from the once-every-five-years communist party congress, which puts us firmly in what Americans would call "the political season".
There will be big changes at the congress. The membership of the nine-member leadership inner-sanctum, the Standing Committee of the Politburo, will be turned over. Hu also has the chance to name his potential successors.
The jostling we see now is all part of the infighting to secure positions and influence at the congress. But the contest is not just about bringing the Shanghai faction to heel. That job has been done. This congress will be about the future of politics, not the past.
The toppling of Chen in Shanghai should also be seen in the context of the long-running struggle over economic policy and the center’s chronic inability to impose its will on the provinces.
Shanghai, with Chen leading the charge, had a knock-down fight with Beijing over macro-controls two to three years ago, when the central government was squeezing the city’s frothy property market.
Chen lost that round but defied attempts to remove him. In the meantime, Shanghai’s economy has slowed – it is no longer considered to be out of control and its property market has taken a substantial hit in recent years.
But for all the localities two or three years behind Shanghai and racing to catch up, the sacking of Chen acts as a clear warning from the central government.
The message is clear – if Beijing can bring down a member of the Politburo as powerful as Chen, then it can get just about anyone else as well. Local party bosses had better beware.
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