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, China.  (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, China.  (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.

Meanwhile, 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.

For example, 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. However, 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 to 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.

Meanwhile, 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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Liu Yunshan, the propaganda chief and Politburo Standing Committee member, attends the opening ceremony of the National People's Congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on March 5, 2016. 
(Wang Zhao/AFP/Getty Images)Liu Yunshan, the propaganda chief and Politburo Standing Committee member, attends the opening ceremony of the National People's Congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on March 5, 2016. 
(Wang Zhao/AFP/Getty Images)

News analysis

Very little has changed on the propaganda front in China fifty years from the start of the Cultural Revolution it seems—overly “red” songs are sung in prestigious ceremonial hall in Beijing, outspoken critics of the communist regime are silenced, and the Party leader appears to be establishing a personality cult.

The Party’s internal disciplinary agency, however, isn’t amused by the latest efforts of Politburo Standing Committee member and propaganda chief Liu Yunshan.

The Propaganda Department’s leadership lacks political awareness, said Wang Haichen, the head of the discipline inspection team, in a June 3 report. The inspection team’s two-month probe of the Party’s pen also uncovered discrepancies between Party central’s instructions and what the department carries out, substandard hiring practices, a lack of robust checks against corruption, and a department that operates in an overly formal and bureaucratic manner.

The explicit indictment of the Propaganda Department by the Party’s internal police is the latest in a series of pushbacks by Xi Jinping against Liu Yunshan this year. The indictment, and recent political developments and rumors, suggest that Xi is looking to sideline Liu in the near future.

The June 3 report is an omen that a “huge political earthquake” would shake the top Party leadership, wrote the Chinese-language version of the BBC in its description of the news. “Xi Jinping’s political hindrance could be removed from his post.”

“This is a signal that the elite Chinese leadership isn’t happy with the Central Propaganda Department’s work, and that there will be a rectification of the department,” BBC wrote in the article, citing overseas commentary.

Xi has been in damage control mode ever since subtle propaganda efforts set out to besmirch him beginning in about February.

After the annual lunar new year gala hosted by China Central Television (CCTV) became an out-and-out propaganda drive that also glorified Xi, he publicly toured the headquarters of CCTV, People’s Daily, and Xinhua, the regime’s three main mouthpieces. Analysts say that Xi’s tour was an attempt to regain control over the Party’s pen.

In end February, the Propaganda Department-controlled internet authorities deleted the social media account belonging to retired tycoon Ren Zhiqiang after he made barbed remarks against regime policies. The internet authorities also issued a lengthy statement explaining their censure, an unusual move which suggested that serious action would be taken against Ren.

Foreign observers slammed Xi Jinping for clamping down on free speech. But the Party’s internal disciplinary agency merely handed Ren, a Party member, a year-long probation in May. Earlier this month, Ren returned to form in criticizing polluting Chinese firms at an environmental forum—and incurred no rebuke.

If the above dynamics can be attributed to a tense back-and-forth between Xi Jinping and recalcitrant elements in his own administration, his enemies appeared to have gone too far last month. In the wake of a Cultural Revolution-themed concert held at the Great Hall of the People that juxtaposed Xi’s image with that of Mao Zedong, Xi seems to have gone on the offensive.

In May, People’s Forum, a supplement to the People’s Daily, the official Party mouthpiece, prominently displayed on its website a survey that sought to explain the concept of “gaojihei,” a term of the internet age. The phrase refers to a kind of sophisticated means of undermining the reputation of someone by damning them with fulsome praise. Days later, a Chinese internet blogger famous for fawning over Xi and churning out nationalistic pieces with Maoist tones got censored.

Xi even banned the Propaganda Department from calling him “Xi Dada,” or Uncle Xi, according to Hong Kong newspaper Ming Pao, possibly because the term, especially when used ad nauseum, casts him as a Mao-like figure.

There are two ways to understand Xi Jinping’s recent pushback. One is that he is simply attempting to prevent his political opponents from undermining him by painting him in the image of Mao; the other is that he has no choice but to seize control of the Party’s pen, command the Party’s military, and maintain a grinding anti-corruption campaign, merely to stay one step ahead in a “struggle of life and death” with a rival Party faction.

Propaganda chief Liu Yunshan is a known loyalist of Jiang Zemin the former Party boss. Before Xi took power, Jiang allowed his loyalists in the Politburo Standing Committee—military vice chairs Xu Caihou and Guo Boxiong, and security czar Zhou Yongkang, to name a few—to have the final say on their respective portfolios. In turn, Jiang’s loyalists are committed to protecting their patron because it allows for the continuation of the political order that he oversees.

Xi seeks real control over the Party, and the only way to do that is by dislodging the Jiang power nexus. He has already purged many of Jiang’s top allies, and assumed control over the Party’s gun through a sweeping military reform. The other key Party organ, the Propaganda Department, seems to be next.

Overseas Chinese-language media have recently carried rumors that Liu Yunshan could be purged, and his Propaganda Department reconstituted.

Wang Huning, a devoted adviser to three Party leaders, has reportedly gathered four other Politburo members to demand an investigation be launched against Liu Yunshan, according to Hong Kong political magazine Chengming. Wang and the others claim that Liu had overseen “irregular organizational activities,” and failed to properly perform his duties.

Meanwhile Mingjing, a Chinese language publication that is known to traffic high-level political news, claims that Xi Jinping is looking to reorganize, and even rename, the Propaganda Department at an important leadership political conclave in 2017.

And according to sources in China, the internal Party disciplinary agency has placed Jiang Mianheng, the elder son of Jiang Zemin, under house arrest. This move is of a piece with longstanding moves by Xi Jinping against Jiang Zemin and his loyalists.

These developments, coupled with the open criticism of the Propaganda Department, do not bode well for Liu Yunshan.

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  • Author: <a href="http://www.theepochtimes.com/n3/author/larry-ong/" rel="author">Larry Ong</a>, <a href="http://www.theepochtimes.com/" title="Epoch Times" rel="publisher">Epoch Times</a>
  • Category: General

The Panama Papers, a recently released collection of over 11 million leaked documents, has revealed that top politicians worldwide are connected with potentially shady offshore business deals. Included in the long list of world leaders are the names of several powerful Chinese Communist Party elites.
According to a report by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) on April 6, Chinese leader Xi Jinping, Politburo Standing Committee members Liu Yunshan and Zhang Gaoli, former China vice chairman Zeng Qinghong, and a handful of others all have relatives that acquired offshore companies through Mossack Fonseca, a law firm in Panama that helps set up offshore shell companies for would-be customers. ICIJ is one of several media outlets that scrutinized leaked documents from the Panamanian company in 2015.
Deng Jiagui, the brother-in-law of Xi Jinping, had three companies registered under his name—Supreme Victory Enterprises Ltd., Best Effect Enterprises Ltd., and Wealth Ming International Ltd. Supreme Victory was dissolved in 2007, and the other two companies had become dormant by 2012 when Xi became Party chief.
It appears that Deng’s decision to relinquish his overseas assets was motivated by political considerations, and is consistent with a similar move involving the largest real estate developer in China.
During a speech at Harvard University last October, Wang Jianlin, the chairman of Dalian Wanda Group, said that the Deng family used to own shares with his company for six years, but sold them before the company went public and missed the chance to accrue a windfall.
This accords with reports that circulated in the overseas Chinese press saying that when he was in line to be promoted to the leadership, Xi called his family members together and told them to get out of business—perhaps as a way of insulating himself from the political blowback that has come to those found to have family members who benefited from corruption.
The relatives of Liu, Zhang, and Zeng kept their offshore assets while they were holding top office.
For instance, Jia Liqing, the daughter-in-law of Party propaganda chief Liu Yunshan, is a shareholder and director of Ultra Time Investment, a shell company incorporated in the British Virgin Islands in 2009.
Jia’s father, Jia Chunwang, had worked in the security and legal departments for two decades in several top positions—head of the Ministry of State Security from 1985 to 1998; head of the Ministry of Public Security from 1998 to 2002; and procurator-general, a post equivalent to Attorney General in the United States, from 2003 to 2008.
Lee Shing Put, the son-in-law of vice premier Zhang Gaoli, is a shareholder of three companies incorporated in the British Virgin Islands—Zennon Capital Management, Sino Reliance Networks Corporation, and Glory Top Investments Ltd.
And Zeng Qinghui, the younger brother of Zeng Qinghong, was the director of China Cultural Exchange Association, a company first formed in Niue and then re-domiciled in Samosa in 2006.

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Chinese tycoon and celebrity blogger Ren Zhiqiang recently got in trouble for criticising Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s words “CCP media takes on the surname of the CCP.”
As the struggle between China’s Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) and the propaganda system intensifies, what Xi’s comment might mean has drawn deep concern from outside.
Various mainland Chinese media have reported that, following Ren’s critical comments, all senior forces in the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) have got into a multi-round “melee.”
Among them, the propaganda system controlled by Liu Yunshan and the CCDI controlled by Wang Qishan have skirmished, drawing a lot of attention. Liu and Wang are both members of the Politburo Standing Committee, but Liu belongs to the faction of former CCP head Jiang Zemin, while Wang is in Xi’s camp.The real meaning of Xi’s statement “CCP media takes on the surname of the CCP” is that “CCP media’s surname is not Liu Yunshan”.— a Beijing politician

On Feb 19, when Xi inspected China Central Television (CCTV), banners such as “CCP media takes on the surname of the CCP” were used to butter Xi up.
A source inside China considered this to be Liu creating “advanced blackening” against Xi by using public discontent towards the CCP’s propaganda. “Advanced blackening” refers to something that seems to be praise, but actually hints at discredit.
The incident was thought to be no different from setting a trap for Xi to jump into, triggering the subsequent development of events.
On the same day, Ren Zhiqiang, a very good friend of Wang Qishan, made remarks of discontent on his microblog about CCTV’s mention of “CCP media takes on the surname of the CCP.” unexpectedly giving Liu’s propaganda system a chance to leverage power to attack Wang and Xi.
On Feb 22, Qianlong Net of the CCP’s Beijing Municipal Committee published two articles in a row, titled “Why netizens want to give Ren lectures on CCP” and “Who gave Ren the anti-CCP strength.” These not only put labels on Ren, but also implied that Wang supported Ren and intended to manipulate public opinion.
Since then, some media in the CCP’s propaganda system, such as Guangming Net, have carried out a relay campaign against Ren, criticizing his “anti-Xi Jinping speech.”
On Feb 28, Ren’s accounts on the microblogging websites Sina and Tencent Weibo were both closed by the CCP’s Cyberspace Administration. Ren was accused of “continuing to post illegal information” and was not allowed to re-register using another name.
The next evening, the CCP’s Beijing Xicheng District Committee issued a notice stating that Ren had “seriously damaged the Party’s image” and swearing that this would be “dealt with seriously” according to the CCP’s Disciplinary Regulations.
On the same day, the Huayuan Group Committee, to which Ren’s Party membership belonged, issued a document titled “Opinions on strengthening the work in the ideological area.” It forbid the staff of the group to fabricate and spread political rumors to smear the CCP and the country’s image. Ren is the chairman of Huayuan Group.
Before that, it became clear that Liu’s propaganda system has been leading the fire to Wang under the banner of “protecting” Xi, by “shelling” Ren.
Wang’s CCDI promptly began to make moves to fight back against Liu.
On Feb 27, the CCDI held the first campaign meeting for the inspection team to go to the Propaganda Ministry, with a big crowd of powerful attendees.
The team leader, Li Xiaohong, emphasized that the inspection would be a political one and has attracted the attention of high-ranking officials. This was considered to be Wang’s strong tactic or an iron fist.
On March 1, the CCDI published an article on its website titled “Thousands nodding is not as good as one scholar’s offending advice.” The article citing an idiom expressing that whether a proposal is accepted often determines the rise or fall of a dynasty, calling for allowing people to make mistakes in their speech.
Some analysts believe that “thousands” corresponded to “Qianlong Net,” since “Qianlong” means “thousands of dragons”; and “one scholar” corresponded to Ren.
This implied that the CCDI was warning the Beijing Municipal Commission and the propaganda system while clearly backing Ren.
On March 2, subordinate agencies of the Beijing Xicheng District Committee were told to suspend Ren’s issue and refused any interviews. Messages were transmitted abroad, and it was thought that the momentum of handling the Ren incident was temporarily interrupted.
What did Xi’s words mean?
Recently, a Beijing politician told New Tang Dynasty Television (NTD), that the real meaning of Xi’s statement “CCP media takes on the surname of the CCP” is that “CCP media’s surname is not Liu (Yunshan).”
Xi said those words while he inspected CCTV, Xinhua News Agency, and the People’s Daily, all of which belong to Liu’s propaganda system.
The politician said to NTD that this is the third big movement Xi has taken, after anti-corruption and tackling the army. However, Ren’s remarks exposed a loophole for Liu to take advantage of.
Commentator Haichuan wrote in an article, “Liu Yunshan is more ruthless than Xi Jinping for utilizing the Party’s name.”
Haichuan said that Liu used the propaganda system to provoke the Ren incident and objectively achieved three things. First, he directly blocked Ren, leaving Ren no place to speak and making the already depressed microblogging sites more deserted.
Second, while attacking Ren, they also targeted Xi’s partner Wang. Third, they asked Xi to pay for Ren’s incident, setting a trap for Xi again.
Haichuan believes that both Xi and Liu are very clear about the rogue nature of the CCP and its media, which are abandoned with disgust by all walks of people. Xi’s statement “CCP media takes on the surname of the CCP” was most likely out of frustration in the power struggle. He thinks that although Xi had to use the Party as a means to grasp power, it is also easy for the rival faction to take advantage of this, due to the evilness and absurdity of the Party and the Ren incident is a stark example for Xi to learn his lesson.
Translated by Thomas Leung. Written in English by Sally Appert.

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