Zhang Gaoli attends the news conference after the closing session of the National People's Congress (NPC) at the Great Hall of the People on March 17, 2013 in Beijing, Кытай.  (Feng Li/Getty Images)Zhang Gaoli attends the news conference after the closing session of the National People's Congress (NPC) at the Great Hall of the People on March 17, 2013 in Beijing, Кытай.  (Feng Li/Getty Images)

Xi Jinping is the leader of the Chinese Communist Party, but he doesn’t have complete control over the regime. Rather, former Party chief Jiang Zemin continues to influence matters of the day through his factional allies in key leadership positions, as well as through a vast political network.

This year, the overseas Chinese press speculated that Xi is looking to dismantle the Politburo Standing Committee—the highest decision-making body in the regime, and a key political tool Jiang has used to impose his will or check ruling Party leaders.

The recent purge of top Tianjin official Yin Hailin and other members of the so-called “Tianjin gang” appears to be a move by Xi Jinping to implicate Standing Committee member and former Tianjin chief Zhang Gaoli.

Targeting Zhang would afford Xi an excuse to discredit the existing structure of collective leadership at the top, and break free from Jiang Zemin’s control.

Abolishing the Politburo Standing Committee?

Of the seven members in the Standing Committee, vice premier Zhang Gaoli, propaganda chief Liu Yunshan, and Chinese legislature head Zhang Dejiang are known allies of Jiang Zemin.

The two Zhangs and Liu have interfered with the rule of Xi Jinping.

Zhang Gaoli is linked with a massive chemical warehouse blast in Tianjin in 2015.

Zhang Dejiang, who also oversees the affairs of semi-autonomous Hong Kong and Macau, turned Hongkongers against Beijing by denying promised democratic reforms.

Ошол эле учурда, Liu Yunshan is believed to be behind the efforts of state media and “nationalistic” bloggers’ casting Xi as a Mao-like figure.

Overseas Chinese media reported this year that Xi is dissatisfied with the Standing Committee system, and is considering dismantling it and adopting a presidential system. Indeed, Xi is already governing through several small but powerful policy panels, a sign that he is dissatisfied with the status quo.

Before Jiang Zemin stepped down as Party leader in 2002, he increased the number of Standing Committee members from seven to nine, and stacked the body with his allies. Each Standing Committee member ran his portfolio independently, resulting in a state of governance that one Chinese scholar described as feudal.

When Xi Jinping came to power during the 18th Party National Congress, the nine-member Standing Committee returned to a seven-member body.

The fall of Yin Haili

On August 22, the official website of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) announced that Tianjin’s deputy mayor Yin Hailin was being investigated for “serious violations of discipline.”

From January 2000 until very recently, Yin, 56, served as the deputy director of the Tianjin Urban and Rural Planning and Design Institute. He was later appointed deputy director of the Tianjin Planning and Land Resources Bureau, and then promoted to director in December 2007. In May 2012, Yin was made Tianjin deputy mayor, Tianjin Political and Legal Affairs Commission deputy secretary, as well as Tianjin Municipal Planning Bureau director.

Yin’s swift rise up the political ladder coincided with Politburo Standing Committee member Zhang Gaoli’s tenure as Tianjin Party Secretary from March 2007 to November 2012.

The Yin Haili-led Tianjin Municipal Planning Bureau appeared to be involved in the real estate corruption case of property developer Zhao Jin in 2014, as well as the massive explosions near the port of Tianjin on Aug. 2015. After the two high-profile incidents, there were rumors of shakeups at the Municipal Planning Bureau of Tianjin.

Indeed, after the announce of Yin’s arrest, a Tianjin official told semi-official press Beijing News that Yin’s demise has been speculated for quite a while, and he was linked with the Zhao Jin corruption case.

Zhao, the son of the Jiangsu Provincial Party Committee secretary-general, had leveraged on his father’s political post and connections to build a huge real estate empire. He was arrested by the authorities on June 2014, while Zhao Senior was taken away four months later. After that, officials in Tianjin’s Municipal Planning Bureau were purged one after the other.

The Tianjin Gang

Compared to his serving in Tianjin’s planning authorities for over 30 years, Yin Hailin tenure in Tianjin municipality and law and security apparatus has attracted far less attention.

Several officials in Tianjin’s political and legal system have committed appalling abuses of power.

Мисалы, Li Baojin, former deputy secretary of Tianjin’s Political and Legal Affairs Commission and head of the municipality’s prosecuting body, was detained and interrogated on June 12, 2006. The following year, Li was handed a death sentence with reprieve for taking bribes and embezzling public funds.

On June 4, 2007, Song Pingshun, the chairman of Tianjin’s Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, committed suicide in his office. Song, 62, had controlled Tianjin’s political and legal system for many years, and was Li Baojin’s long-time superior.

Later, Wu Changshun, then chief of the Tianjin Municipal Public Security Bureau, was placed under investigation. But the investigation into Wu was called off by Zhou Yongkang, then Central Political and Legal Affairs Commission deputy secretary, on the condition that Wu would oversee security for the Beijing Summer Olympics, according to respected Chinese financial publication Caixin.

Wu was eventually promoted to deputy head of the Tianjin Political and Legal Affairs Commission and vice chair of the Tianjin political consultative body. He held this positions until his arrest in July 2014.

Unlike Song, Li, and Wu, Yin Hailin did not make his career in the public security system. But Yin eventually succeeded Wu Changshun nonetheless. Like Wu, Yin also had secret dealings with other powerful individuals.

Why the Tianjin Gang is Now in Trouble

The purge of deputies in Tianjin’s security and law apparatus can be traced back to the Chinese regime’s persecution of the spiritual discipline Falun Gong 17 years ago.

On April 25, 1999 10,000 Falun Gong practitioners gathered in Beijing and stood quietly outside Zhongnanhai to petition the authorities to release several practitioners who had been detained by Tianjin police.

The issue was resolved in a matter of hours after Falun Gong representatives spoke with Zhu Rongji, then Chinese premier. Бирок,, then Chinese leader Jiang Zemin seized the April 25 petition as a pretext to launch a large-scale suppression of Falun Gong.

At the time of the April 25 incident, Song Pingshun was Party Secretary of Tianjin’s Political and Legal Affairs Commission, and head of Tianjin’s Public Security Bureau. Wu Changshun was deputy director of the Public Security Bureau, and Li Baojin was head of Tianjin’s prosecuting body.

Song, Wu, Li, as well as former Central Political and Legal Affairs Party Secretaries Luo Gan and Zhou Yongkang, all have a hand in executing Jiang’s persecution campaign.

Incidentally, a distinct pattern has emerged in Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption campaign: Many officials that have been investigated for corruption are also known to have persecuted Falun Gong.

The Yin Hailin-Zhang Gaoli connection

During Yin Hailin’s term as boss of Tianjin city planning officials, three of Tianjin’s districts— Tanggu, Hangu, and Dagang—were consolidated into a new area called Binhai. Yin is allegedly involved in the planning and construction of this Binhai New Area.

According to reports in overseas Chinese media, former Tianjin boss Zhang Gaoli made the development and opening up of the Binhai New Area one of his priorities.

Binhai New Area has numerous unfinished projects. A total of 60 billion yuan (about US$9 billion) was invested in Xiangluowan Business District, one of the 6 functional districts in Binhai New Area’s central business district. But Chinese media describe Xiangluowan today as a “ghost town.”

The development company Binhai New Area Construction Investment Group incurred a huge amount of debt. Liu Huiwen, former chairman of Tianjin TEDA Investment Holding Co. Limited, committed suicide in April 2014.

In 2014, the Party’s internal disciplinary agency sent inspection teams to Tianjin. On July 9, the inspection teams told the Tianjin Municipal government that state owned enterprises in Tianjin were frequently involved in “major graft and bribery cases,” and there was “major corruption issues in the urban development and construction sector.”

According to some media reports, anti-corruption chief Wang Qishan ordered the Tianjin authorities to preserve the complete records of minutes taken at meetings of the province’s leadership since 2007. Wang also requested to view the original documents for government development projects, and insisted that “no one should tamper” with the paperwork.

Zhang Gaoli is said to be involved in private venture and equity fund cases worth hundreds of billions of yuan.

When Zhang took over Tianjin in 2007, he promoted all types of venture capital and private equity funds. But from early 2010 үчүн 2012, the Tianjin authorities suddenly investigated and closed down these firms, affecting hundreds of thousands of families who invested in them.

Many of those affected journeyed to Tianjin to petition and lodge complaints. Some of the protesters were heard shouting “Zhang Gaoli, return our money!

Tianjin explosions

On Aug. 12, 2015, a series of catastrophic explosions rocked Tianjin when a chemical warehouse in Binhai New Area blew up.

Binhai New Area is Zhang Gaoli’s biggest achievement in Tianjin. Ruihai International Logistics, the company that owned the warehouse where the explosions occurred, was allegedly controlled by the relatives of Zhang.

A day after the explosions, an overseas website claimed in an article that the Tianjin explosion was the work of terrorists. “Conspiracy theories” the article wrote, suggest that “the Tianjin explosions are surely the by-product of a power struggle inside the Chinese Communist Party. A rogue side created the human tragedy, and this group’s purpose is to threaten, intimidate, and force a crisis that would lead to an impeachment of Xi Jinping”. This claim hasn’t been verified.

Ошол эле учурда, an Aug. 23 report by Hong Kong tabloid Apple Daily, citing sources in Beijing, claimed that Xi Jinping held a meeting of the Politburo Standing Committee on the night of the Tianjin explosion.

Some analysts believe that Jiang Zemin used the Tianjin explosions to bargain with Xi Jinping. Xi had reportedly detained Jiang temporarily in response.

To this day, the inside story of the Tianjin explosions hasn’t been completely revealed. The connection between Yin Hailin’s downfall and the rumors about Zhang Gaoli adds additional mystery to the explosion.

This February, the Chinese regime’s State Council approved the investigation of the explosions in Tianjin.

Translated By SQ Wu, Susan Wang, & Benjamin Ng. Edited by Sally Appert.

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Chinese leader Xi Jinping was named commander-in-chief of the Joint Command Headquarters (JCH) of the Central Military Commission (CMC) on April 20.
Xi also visited the centre as commander-in-chief for the first time, which caused concern. Wearing a camouflage uniform, Xi listened to reports on the JCH as well as the sub-JCH in five theaters through videos.
He appeared together with other members of the CMC. Unlike other officials and soldiers, his armlet only had CMC wording on it.
Military reform
This was the first time Xi appeared as commander-in-chief of the JCH after the military reform late last year.
The JCH is an important authority set up after China’s military reform. It is the highest and key command centre of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA), where all military orders and dispatches come from.
Last year, the Ministry of Defense (MOD) said that the military reform would “fix JCH authoritiesand “build up the strategic and operational command system.
The JCH is defined in two levels, with one at the level of the CMC and another at the theatre level. Some analysts have said that as the brain of the Chinese military’s joint operations, the JCH of the CMC has always been strictly confidential and low-key since it was set up.
Since the end of last year, when Xi started the military reform, the old Departments of General Staff, General Politics, General Logistics, and General Armament have been changed to 15 functional departments, including 7 departments, 3 committees, жана 5 direct institutions. In addition, 7 military districts were changed to 5 theatres.
Changes to the senior military personnel have been basically completed.
Similar to the old “Chief General”, the current commander-in-chief of the JCH is the person who issues military orders.
Under the current military system, the chairman of the CMC is a military and administrative top commander who holds the power of four military systems in command, construction, management, and supervision.
According to the old system, military orders were primarily dealt by the General Staff Department. The chief of the department then submitted them to the vice-chairmen and then the chairman of the CMC.
The chairman of the CMC is the concurrent commander of the current round of military reform.
Jiang controlled military
Supporters of former leader Jiang Zemin, Xi’s political rival, have controlled the military for a long time. Jiang himself was chairman of the CMC from 1989 үчүн 2004.
Jiang promoted Guo Boxiong and Xu Caihou to be vice-chairmen of the CMC to hold military power before he retired in 2004, while Jiang himself remained the chairman illegally for two more years. Jiang maintained his grip on military power for over 20 years altogether, cultivating many cronies and supporters in the army.
When Jiang toppled Yang Shangkun, former vice-chairman of the CMC in 1989, and his brother Yang Baibing, former director of the General Political Department in 1992, Jiang’s faction began to control the army.
Xu Caihou, nicknamed “Northeast Tiger,” and Guo Boxiong, nicknamed “Northwest Wolf,” both controlled an area in the military for more than 10 years, with confidants and partisans at all levels throughout the army.
According to an inside source, Guo once said, “If we were replaced, there would still be our men at next level.
According to a Mainland media report on April 12 this year, many of the current military officials were promoted by Guo during his 10-year post as vice-chairman of the CMC. Guo’s son, Guo Zhenggang, said, “More than half of the army cadres were promoted by my family.
Xu died of bladder cancer during prosecution March 15 last year. According to last June’s Ming Pao Monthly report, Xu made two statements in his last moments: that Guo’s problems were much more serious than his, and that only four people among the chief generals of large military districts did not bribe him.
Positions for sale
Previously, overseas media have disclosed that Guo and Xu traded rankings in the military. Guo and Xu firmly held the power over military personnel and monopolized almost all promotions of high-ranking military officials.
Yang Chunchang, vice-director of the former Military Construction Department of the Military Academy, disclosed on Hong Kong’s Phoenix TV on March 9 last year that Xu had price tags on military rankings. The military-district levels started at 10 million yuan (US$1.5 million).
“In the army, including the armed police and the PLA, joining the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) also required money,” Yang told Phoenix TV. “There were always price tags for rankings from platoon, company, and regiment to division.
Yang added that for a commander of a big military district, if one person gave him 10 million yuan and another gave him 20 million yuan, the one who gave more money would get the position.
“The military belonged to their family. They also oversaw the then-leader of the CMC. These were all very complicated issues,” Yang told Phoenix TV.
According to the CCP’s promotion system for military personnel, a senior general’s promotion must be granted by two CMC vice-chairmen.
China’s Communist System on the Verge of Collapse
Cleaning out Jiang’s forces
Xi began his anti-corruption campaign and military reform after he took office. Most of those investigated in the campaign have been members of Jiang’s faction.
So far, 57 officials at the corps level and above have been sacked, including Jiang’s two henchmen, Xu and Guo, and their henchmen.
Through restructuring and a substantial personnel adjustment during the military reform, Xi has gained full control of the army.
Commentators have said that Guo, Xu, and their cronies have been gradually thrown out or marginalised. Бирок,, their partisans in the military are still difficult to clear out comprehensively.
Xi has won the power to give military orders. This warned the forces of Guo and Xu in the army, laying a foundation for cleaning out Jiang’s remnants in the military and arresting Jiang in the next step.
On Feb 1, the inaugural meeting of the five newly formed military theatres was held in Beijing. Xi granted each theater a bull flag and gave a speech.
Ji Da, a China expert based in Washington DC, said that the CCP military is commercialised. The army used its own businesses to raise

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Shortly before this year’s 17th anniversary of over 10,000 Falun Gong practitionerspeaceful appeal at Zhongnanhai, Chinese leader Xi Jinping gave unusual speeches on petitions, religion, and political and legal issues.
This was interpreted as Xi giving hints to indicate his attitude. He also tackled issues that former Chinese leaders Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao had no courage to touch on.
On April 25, 1999, over 10,000 practitioners of the Falun Gong spiritual discipline went to the State Council Appeals Office near Zhongnanhai in Beijing to ask authorities to release 45 Falun Gong practitioners who were unreasonably detained by authorities in the city of Tianjin.
The incident is considered the largest and the most peaceful and rational petition in China’s history.
Zhu Rongji, who was the Premier Minister at the time, personally met with representatives of the spiritual practitioners and promised to release the detained practitioners and to give them the legitimate right to practise. The issue was resolved at that point.
Бирок,, ГЭСине, the Communist leader at the time, labelled the incident “besieging Zhongnanhai.He initiated a massive and cruel suppression against Falun Gong practitioners starting on July 20, the same year without the consent of the remaining six members of the Politburo Standing Committee.
The harsh suppression has lasted 17 years. Each year, April 25 is considered a sensitive date. Бирок,, right before this year’s anniversary, Xi undertook a series of unusual and high-profile movements.
The important message he released has triggered wide attention from the outside world.
Petition issue
On April 21, state-run media published Xi and Premier Li Keqiang’s assertiveness on the issue of petitioning. Xi spoke of “devoting great efforts to deal with the outstanding petition problems, and properly resolving the issues of people’s legitimate and lawful demands.
Li called for “striving to resolve the conflicts and protect people’s legitimate rights and interests.
The timing of the above remarks drew wide attention.
For the past 17 years, Falun Gong practitioners have been subject to defamation, illegal sentencing, torture, and other ways of persecution. These torture tactics have gradually begun to be applied to many common Chinese people.
Now, as China’s civil rights movement continues to rise, more and more people are beginning to fight for their rights through petitioning.
Shi Cangshan, a Washington-based expert on China issues, believes that Xi chose to endorse people’s petitioning rights and gave the instruction to handle the petition issue properly right before April 25.
“Xi Jinping used a “you-should-knowstyle to show his stance on the Falun Gong issue, expressing his dissatisfaction with Jiang Zemin’s persecution,” Shi said.
Meeting on religion
From April 22–23, Xi presided over a top-level meeting about religious issues. Five Politburo membersLi Keqiang, Wang Qishan, Zhang Dejiang, Liu Yunshan, and Yu Zhengshengattended the meeting.
This was the first time the highest leader had presided over the religious meeting in 15 years. Previously it was chaired by the Secretary for Religious Affairs.
Xi made a high-profile speech on religious matters at the meeting. “Organize and unite the majority of religious followers,” ал айтты.
State-run media made a quick high-profile coverage of the news, which is significantly different from when Jiang presided over the meeting.
In 2001, Jiang staged the Tiananmen self-immolation hoax, in which TV footage showed several individuals who apparently set themselves on fire. State-run media widely broadcast the footage, claiming that the self-immolators were Falun Gong practitioners.
This was part of Jiang’s full-scale defamation campaign against Falun Gong through the Communist regime’s propaganda system. At the end of the same year, Jiang presided over the national religion meeting, but he increased the strength of the suppression against Falun Gong.
The details of the meeting were reported a few years later.
Officials arrested
At the same time, several officials from the Political and Legal Affairs system were punished by Xi’s authorities before the April 25 anniversary.
On April 24, authorities announced the news that four officials from the Political and Legal Affairs system had been disciplined. The Political and Legal Affairs system has been the most vicious party during Jiang’s persecution of Falun Gong.
Since Xi took power, there has been some major clean-up in the Political and Legal Affairs system. Several key officials have been sacked, including the former secretary of the Central Political and Legal Affairs Commission, Zhou Yongkang.
On April 16, Zhang Yue, secretary of the Political and Legal Affairs Commission of Hebei Province, was dismissed from the position for further investigation. Zhang is one of Zhou’s trusted followers.
Zhou took the role of Minister of Public Security and Deputy Director of the Central Political and Legal Affairs Commission in 2002. Zhang was appointed as the head the Ministry of Public Security’s “26th Bureau” боюнча 2003. This is the notorious “610 Office,” an illegal organization established by Jiang and his supporters for the sole purpose of suppressing Falun Gong.
Zhang became the direct accomplice of the Jiang faction in the public security system. After being moved to the Hebei Political and Legal Committee in 2007, Zhang became the person directly accountable for the brutal persecution of Falun Gong in Hebei Province.
He was on the investigation list of the World Organization to Investigate the Persecution of Falun Gong (WOIPFG).
On April 25, state-run media reported on Xi’s five must-follow requirements for the Political and Legal Affairs system.
The Falun Gong issue
Before the 17th anniversary of April 25, more than 200,000 people have lodged complaints against Jiang for his persecution of Falun Gong. Some analysts believe that as the international community becomes increasingly concerned about the illegal persecution of Falun Gong, Xi has to face the Falun Gong issue.
Xi, Hu, and Wen all do not want to be the scapegoats of the persecution, but Xi is handling the issue differently.
The book “The True Jiang Zeminrevealed that when Jiang initiated the persecution on July 20, 1999, the other six members of the Politburo Standing Committee did not support him. They were Li Peng, Zhu Rongji, Li Ruihuan, Hu Jintao, Wei Jianxing, and Li Lanqing.
On April 26, 1999, the day after the appeal, the Politburo Standing Committee had a meeting to discuss the Falun Gong issue.
Zhu Rongji said, “Let them do the exercises.Jiang stood

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