Highlights from the last week of China business news: Hu Jintao has a few aces up his sleeve in the run-up to the party congress; the world’s largest standing army, the PLA, gets in on this whole ‘internet’ thing.
Stacking the deck
Mattel and its toy recalls just won’t stay out of the news, and neither can the Shanghai Composite Index, which this week reached a new high of 5,300 (5,000 was a record last week). Both of these themes have cropped up before in this space. You can read about them here and here.
But rather than rehash what we’ve written before on both of those subjects, let’s talk politics. Specifically, the ongoing reshuffle of Chinese officialdom. At the end of last week a number of high-level ministers, including finance minister Jin Renqing, were defenestrated. This week, Meng Xuenong, previously best known for his bungling turn as Beijing’s mayor during the 2003 SARS crisis (after which he was swiftly replaced by the PR-savvy Wang Qishan), was promoted to governor of Shanxi province. Meng, a known disciple of President Hu Jintao, was in charge of a water-diversion project for the last four years. He will be replacing Yu Youjun, whom you may have last seen flagellating himself before the State Council Standing Committee for allowing the Shanxi brick kiln slave-labor fiasco to happen on his watch.
A pattern has seemingly emerged among the casualties: Of 16 recently fired ministry-level officials, 14 were found to have kept a mistress. Two of the more notorious offenders, ex-Shanghai Party boss Chen Liangyu and ex-Beijing vice mayor Liu Zhihua, had “multiple” concubines, while naughty chief statistician Qiu Xiaohua broke the marriage law by having a child out of wedlock with his paramour. No word, however, on how many remaining officials have lovers on the side.
After Premier Wen Jiabao said he would use “forceful measures” to stop Chinese cyber espionage in Germany last week, China offered a different reaction to a more direct accusation this week. The US alleged Monday that People’s Liberation Army operatives had hacked into the computer network serving defense secretary Robert Gates’ office in the Pentagon. China issued a response calling the claims “absurd” and a symptom of “Cold War thinking.” If there’s a lesson to be learned from this, it’s that face-time with the top leaders pays off. Wen couldn’t possibly have called Germany’s complaints absurd with Chancellor Angela Merkel sitting across from him in Beijing last week, could he?
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