Tem­per­a­ture rises as Com­rade Xi takes out the trash

The Australian - - FRONT PAGE - WILL GLAS­GOW CHINA CORRESPOND­ENT

Even by Xi Jin­ping’s stan­dards, it was quite a purge. News of the first chop came just be­fore I set off in my sur­gi­cal face­mask to get lunch at one of the few cafes still open in my Bei­jing neigh­bour­hood.

Xin­hua news agency re­ported Jiang Chao­liang was no longer the party sec­re­tary of Hubei, the epi­cen­tre of a global health emergency. I was still to order — af­ter, of course, my tem­per­a­ture was checked — when Xin­hua an­nounced a sec­ond ca­su­alty. Ma Guo­qiang was no longer the Com­mu­nist Party leader of Hubei’s cap­i­tal, Wuhan. Purg­ings at that se­nior­ity don’t hap­pen ev­ery day in Pres­i­dent Xi’s highly or­dered China.

Even by Xi Jin­ping’s stan­dards, it was quite a purge.

News of the first chop came just be­fore I set off in my sur­gi­cal face­mask to get lunch at one of the few cafes still open in my neigh­bour­hood in Bei­jing.

The Chi­nese Com­mu­nist Party-con­trolled Xin­hua news out­fit re­ported that Jiang Chao­liang was no longer the party sec­re­tary of Hubei, the epi­cen­tre of a global health emergency and the big­gest po­lit­i­cal cri­sis of Xi’s eight years in power. I was still to order — af­ter, of course, my tem­per­a­ture was checked — when Xin­hua an­nounced a sec­ond ca­su­alty from high up the ranks of the CCP. Ma Guo­qiang was no longer the Com­mu­nist Party leader of Hubei’s cap­i­tal, Wuhan.

Purg­ings at that se­nior­ity don’t hap­pen ev­ery day in party gen­eral sec­re­tary and Pres­i­dent Xi’s highly or­dered China.

Jiang sits, or rather sat, on the party’s cen­tral com­mit­tee, mak­ing him one of the 300 or so most pow­er­ful people in a na­tion of 1.4 bil­lion.

Once a chair­man at the state­con­trolled Agri­cul­tural Bank of China, Jiang was ap­pointed by the party to over­see Hubei in late 2016, well into Xi’s reign.

His dis­missal is the first over bad per­for­mance at the rank of party pro­vin­cial or mu­nic­i­pal sec­re­tary level dur­ing Xi’s eight years in power. The oth­ers to fall since the 18th party congress in 2012 — which, by my count, num­ber seven — were all re­lated to cor­rup­tion in­ves­ti­ga­tions.

There was spec­u­la­tion about a link be­tween the re­moval and the al­most 10-fold in­crease in num­bers of new cases of COVID19 in Hubei, which was an­nounced ear­lier on Thurs­day.

One mid-level Bei­jing banker reck­oned the huge spike in cases looked a lot like the trash was be­ing taken out to pre­pare things for Jiang’s re­place­ment, Ying Yong, who was the mayor of Shang­hai and is known as a Xi guy. “When a new boss steps into a bank, he must dis­close bad debts left­over by his pre­de­ces­sor so he wouldn’t bear the old debt in his new job,” ex­plained the banker.

Even a die-hard cap­i­tal­ist in the CCP’s arch-ri­val Wash­ing­ton could un­der­stand such a com­mu­nist scheme.

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