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Zeng Qinghong


Potential Rivals? Zeng Qinghong (background) and Hu Jintao (foreground)

Zeng Qinghong (曾庆红 Pinyin: Zeng1 Qing4 hong2) (July 1939) became a member of the Politburo Standing Committee and member of the Secretariat of the CPC Central Committee during the 2002 16th Party Congress. In 2003 he became the Vice President of the People's Republic of China following his election by the National People's Congress, thus replacing his predecessor Hu Jintao, who now hold the posts of General Secretary of the Communist Party of China and President of the People's Republic of China.

A native of Ji'an, Jiangxi Province, Zeng was born in July 1939. A graduate from the Automatic Control Department, Beijing Institute of Technology, Zeng, like the eight other members of the 16th Standing Committee of the CPC Central Committee is an engineer, a specialist in automatic control systems. He joined the Communist Party of China (CPC) in April 1960. Zeng belongs to the elite group of China's so-called Communist "princelings", the children of veteran revolutionaries. His father, Zeng Shan, was a Red Army veteran and went on to become vice-mayor of Shanghai in 1949 and minister of internal affairs in 1960. His mother, Deng Liuqin, was in charge of the Shanghai-based East China Kindergarten where the children of many senior officials were brought up.

From 1963 to 1989, Zeng emerged as a key party cadre in Shanghai and an ally of Jiang Zemin. When Jiang was transferred to Beijing after the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, the one adviser he chose to take with him was Zeng Qinghong. After transferring from Shanghai to Beijing with Jiang, Zeng served from 1989 to 1993 Deputy director of the General Office of the CPC Central Committee.

Promoting Jiang's leadership and thinking, building up his political networking, and emerging as the right-hand-man to Jiang, the "core" of the third generation leaders. Over the 1990s, Zeng consolidated control of party organs responsible for the hiring and firing of cadres. From 1999-2002, Zeng was also a member of the 15th CPC Central Committee, an alternate member of its politburo and member of its Secretariat.

But it is his work for Jiang Zemin which has ensured his political rise. As head of the Organization Department of the CPC Central Committee from 1999-2002, overseeing all appointments and promotions. He has strengthened Jiang's position by promoting members of the president's "Shanghai clique" to leading central and regional posts. Lately, he has also been helping Jiang advance his Three Represents.

Over the 1990s he has acquired a fearsome reputation. And in a way he is a giant killer. In 1992 he helped bring down the powerful, elder PLA Generals Yang Shangkun and Yang Baibing, who threatened Jiang's support within the military. Then, targeted by a Zeng-orchestrated anticorruption campaign, Zeng orchestrated the downfall of Beijing party strongman and Jiang foe Chen Xitong. Six out of the nine newly elevated Politburo Standing Committee members are also Jiang loyalists, due in large measure to Zeng's efforts.

After the 16th Party Congress in 2002, he is a member of the 16th CPC Central Committee, a member of its Political Bureau and of the Politburo Standing Committee and a member of the Secretariat of the CPC Central Committee.

Athough Jiang stepped down from the powerful Politburo Standing Committee of the Communist Party of China to make way for a younger "fourth generation" of leadership led by Hu Jintao, Jiang will probably continue to wield significant influence with the help of Zeng. Six out of the nine new members of the Standing Committee, including Zeng as well as Wu Bangguo, Jia Qinglin, Huang Ju, Wu Guanzheng, and Li Changchun are linked to Jiang's "Shanghai Clique" and considered his protégés. The 22-member Politburo is elected by the Party's central committee. Real power in Communist China lies with this committee, which works as a kind of inner cabinet and groups together the country’s most influential leaders. At the 2002 16th Party Congress, the Standing Committee was expanded to include nine members. Although there is little evidence suggesting this, many observers had speculated that Zeng, acting on Jiang’s behalf, is truly the most powerful member of the Standing Committee, and for that matter his generation, not Hu Jintao. This speculation was contradicted by events during the SARS outbreak when Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao took very strong and assertive action while Zeng and Jiang were quietly in the backgroup.

Although known as a Jiang loyalist, most observers speculate that Zeng is more liberal than his mentor, and interested in political reform (transparency, institutionalization, and greater specification of powers) to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of party and state operations.

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