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Viewing cable 09BEIJING2731, FOURTH PLENUM: XI NOT APPOINTED TO CMC; NO

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09BEIJING2731 2009-09-23 11:11 2010-12-28 21:09 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Beijing
VZCZCXRO2243
OO RUEHCN RUEHGH RUEHVC
DE RUEHBJ #2731/01 2661108
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 231108Z SEP 09
FM AMEMBASSY BEIJING
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 6194
INFO RUEHOO/CHINA POSTS COLLECTIVE
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC
RHMFISS/CDR USPACOM HONOLULU HI
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 04 BEIJING 002731

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/23/2034
TAGS: PGOV PHUM PREL MARR KDEM CH
SUBJECT: FOURTH PLENUM: XI NOT APPOINTED TO CMC; NO
SIGNIFICANT REFORMS

REF: BEIJING 2533

Classified By: Political Minister Counselor Aubrey Carlson.
Reasons 1.4 (b), (d).

1. (C) Summary: Although contacts expressed surprise that
Vice President Xi Jinping was not appointed Central Military
Commission Vice Chairman at the four-day Fourth Plenum of the
Seventeenth CCP Central Committee that concluded September
18, most cautioned against reading too much into the decision
and all stressed that it did not imply significant discord
within the Party. Several contacts noted that Party
leadership dynamics and China's political situation have
changed since 1999 when Hu Jintao was appointed to the CMC
and it is not possible to extrapolate Xi's political
trajectory from past practice. All contacts agreed that,
despite not being appointed to the CMC at the Fourth Plenum,
Xi Jinping is still the clear frontrunner to succeed Hu
Jintao. Some attributed the deferral of Xi's appointment to
leadership uncertainty that Xi's appointment was the right
move at the right time. There was consensus among our
contacts that, despite a communique touting "intra-Party
democracy" and anti-corruption initiatives, the Plenum was
essentially devoid of substantive reforms and will not result
in any significant policy initiatives. Although the Plenum
made no decisions on the future of Xinjiang Party Secretary
Wang Lequan, contacts unanimously predicted his political
career is "finished." End Summary

Plenum Communique
-----------------

2. (C) The Fourth Plenum of the Seventeenth Chinese Communist
Party (CCP) Central Committee concluded September 18. In
keeping with past practice, an official Xinhua news agency
statement announced the release of a CCP communique outlining
the conclusions of the Plenum. The Xinhua summary of the
communique noted that the Plenum had approved a "Decision"
calling for increased "intra-party democracy," party building
and anti-corruption initiatives in the face of urgent
domestic and international challenges. The communique
included a reference to the importance of addressing ethnic
policy, termed "nationalities work" (minzu gonzuo), and
promoting "ethnic unity." The text of the Decision itself
was not publicly released. The communique noted that
President Hu Jintao had delivered an important speech to the
Plenum outlining the challenges confronting the party. It
highlighted the role of Xi Jinping, who delivered an
"explanation" of the Decision to party members. Unlike the
Fourth Plenum of the Sixteenth Central Committee in 1999,
there was no mention of personnel decisions in the communique
following this plenum. The widely anticipated appointment of
Xi Jinping as Vice Chairman of the Central Military
Commission (CMC) was not included in the document. Following
the Plenum, the fourth plenary session of the CCP Central
Commission for Discipline and Inspection (CCDI) took place on
September 19 and also took up the discussion of
anti-corruption initiatives, specifically personal financial
declarations for Party members.

Lack of CMC Appointment Surprising but Not Significant
--------------------------------------------- ---------

3. (C) Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) Professor of
Public Policy Dong Lisheng on September 21 told PolOff that
he had been very surprised by the decision not to appoint Xi
to the CMC. Dong noted that the Plenum was the sole venue
for such personnel decisions and the outcome of this year's
Plenum meant that Xi would not receive the CMC appointment in
the near term. He discounted speculation, particularly among
the Hong Kong press, that Xi's appointment would only be
deferred until after the October 1 National Day celebrations
noting that the Party would not use such unorthodox means to
effect such an important personnel decision. Separately, on
September 21 Guangming Ribao Senior Editor Dong Yuyu agreed
that the issue of Xi's CMC appointment, if it had ever been a
subject at the Plenum, had been deferred for the near term
and would not be revived until 2011 at the earliest.

4. (C) Communist Party member, Renmin University Sociology
Professor and Vice Dean for Undergraduate Education Hong
Dayong on September 21 cautioned against overemphasizing the
1999 precedent and reading too much into the decision not to
elevate Xi. The political dynamics of the Party had changed
greatly, and past models of political transition were of
little utility in the current environment. Guangming Ribao

BEIJING 00002731 002 OF 004


editor Dong Yuyu emphasized that there was no established
system dictating the content and pace of Plenum personnel
decisions. Many had incorQctly surmised that because Hu
Jintao had been appointed to the CMC at the Fourth Plenum of
the Sixteenth Central Committee, Xi Jinping had to be
appointed at the same juncture. However, perceptions of the
importance of this perceived precedent were inaccurate.
CASS's Dong Lisheng emphasized that a primary factor in
deferring the appointment was likely Xi's short tenure as a
member of the Politburo. Dong Lisheng noted that when Hu
Jintao was appointed to the CMC in 1999 he had already been a
Politburo member for seven years. In contrast, Xi had only
been appointed to the Politburo two years earlier.

Xi Still the Frontrunner
------------------------

5. (C) Guangming Ribao's Dong Yuyu stressed that Xi Jinping
was still the frontrunner to succeed Hu Jintao in 2012 and,
in his own opinion, had a "sixty-percent chance" of
succeeding Hu in the Party Chairmanship, Presidency and CMC
Chairmanship. He noted that the decision to defer Xi's
elevation to the CMC was likely made in order to provide him
more time to develop as a Party leader. The Party was also
looking to protect itself by affording Xi "less time to make
mistakes" in that capacity before eventually taking the CMC
Chairmanship. Fang Jinyu, recently retired Beijing bureau
chief of the Nanfang Ribao Media Group, told PolOff September
14 that Xi remained the only feasible candidate by virtue of
his political pedigree and backing by Jiang Zemin, Zeng
Qinghong and other retired cadres and that Li Keqiang was not
a realistic competitor.

No Discord within the Politburo
-------------------------------

6. (C) CASS's Dong Lisheng said that, in his view, the
decision was the result of the Party leadership's
determination to "keep its options open" but did not imply
intra-Party discord. Guangming's Dong Yuyu stressed that the
failure to elevate Xi did not suggest power struggles within
Party leadership. On the contrary, the leadership was united
as never before around the principles of protecting its power
and the individual vested interests of Party leaders.
Deferring the appointment of Xi to the CMC was a function of
the Party's more cautious attitude in general rather than any
significant disagreements within the Politburo.

CCP-PLA Issues
--------------

7. (C) Renmin University's Hong Dayong noted that the CCP
leadership had to be "cautious in how it manages the
military" and Xi Jinping still lacked the requisite
experience at the highest levels of the Party leadership for
this role. Huang Shan, Deputy International Editor of
Caijing Magazine, on September 17 (during the Plenum)
emphasized that the Party was conscious of its "lack of
authority over the military," particularly in the wake of the
much publicized confrontation between Premier Wen Jiabao and
the PLA during reconstruction efforts after the Sichuan
earthquake and that this issue would inform the outcome of
the Plenum. Chen Jieren, News Director at Youth.cn, a news
website operated by the Communist Youth League and the nephew
of Politburo Standing Committee Member He Guoqiang, on
September 9 told PolOff that conservative members of the PLA
were among the leading critics of the response to the
Xinjiang riots and of the policies of President Hu and
Premier Wen; this was causing much introspection within the
Party. Guangming's Dong Yuyu noted that this theme had been
presaged in a speech by Hu Jintao during a July 24 Politburo
study session at which he called for the development of
"military-civilian integration" (junmin rongheshi fazhan).
Dong speculated that this initiative could suggest that the
Party was considering new options for the composition of the
CMC, including a formulation whereby both Xi Jinping and Li
Keqiang could be jointly named as Vice Chairmen in the future.

Plenum without Substance
------------------------

8. (C) Guangming Ribao's Dong Yuyu noted that in other
aspects the Plenum had developed exactly how he had expected,
with no meaningful changes to the Party's fundamental
approach to reform and ideology. Echoing references by other
contacts (reftel) to Hu Jintao's statement that the Party

BEIJING 00002731 003 OF 004


would "avoid distractions" (bu zheteng), Dong noted that the
process of drafting the Plenum conclusions had been ongoing
for the past year and the decision not to deviate from
existing policies had been reached long before the Plenum
convened. The one significant exception was the inclusion of
the reference to "nationalities work" in the communique, Dong
Yuyu said, which had been included recently in response to
the unrest in Xinjiang. However, like the other purported
reform initiatives, this would not translate into any
substantive adjustments to ethnic policy. A loosening of
policies in Xinjiang and Tibet would create a backlash
against the Party by the Han majority and was therefore
politically untenable.

Party Leaders Lack Mandate for Reform
-------------------------------------

9. (C) Speaking to PolOff September 17 (during the Plenum),
Caijing editor Huang Shan predicted that the significant
dilution of the political authority of individual Chinese
leaders would inform Plenum outcomes. The lack of a clear
political mandate meant there could be no substantive
political reforms at the Plenum or in the near term. The
Party had adopted a "wait and see" approach to reform in
general and was "absolutely unwilling" to consider any
meaningful changes to party ideology or policy. Although the
Party was aware that social unrest was a potential challenge
to its legitimacy, it would address the issue exclusively
through economic policy rather than political reform.

10. (C) CASS scholar Dong Lisheng echoed Huang Shan's
comments, noting that that the need for consensus informed
all major Party decisions and was the reason for the lack of
any substantive policy initiatives during the Plenum. He
noted, however, that the tenor of the Plenum reflected
significant dichotomy within the Party's outlook. On the one
hand, the Party remained confident that its policies had
successfully guided China through the global financial crisis
and had maintained economic growth and general political
stability. Guangming's Dong Yuyu echoed these comments,
stating that the Party had a confident (zihao) outlook and
was touting international praise for the "Beijing model" of
economic development as legitimizing its mandate. Both Dong
Lisheng and Dong Yuyu individually noted, however that on the
other hand the Party was obsessively preoccupied with
perceived threats to its hold on power. In this context, the
Party's overarching near-term goal was the preservation of
the status quo, and it would therefore avoid any policy or
reform initiatives that could potentially have "unforeseen
consequences."

11. (C) CASS's Dong Lisheng discounted the communique's
references to "intra-party democracy" as restatements of the
general principles outlined during the Seventeenth Party
Congress. He predicted that the anti-corruption measures
discussed during the Plenum would also not result in any
substantive measures to bring rampant graft under control.
Dong Lisheng noted that, despite the renewed discussion of
personal financial disclosure statements during the CCDI
plenary session, disclosure regulations for high-level cadres
had been on the books since 1995 but had not been enforced.
Guangming's Dong Yuyu noted that the reason that financial
disclosure statements had been discussed at the CCDI session
instead of the full Plenum was because they were impossible
to implement.

Wang Lequan Finished
--------------------

12. (C) All contacts agreed that Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous
Region (XUAR) Party Secretary Wang Lequan would be replaced
in the near term. CASS scholar Dong Lisheng noted that the
unprecedented spectacle of ethnic Han Urumqi residents taking
to the streets to demand Wang's resignation shortly after a
visit to the XUAR by Hu Jintao could not go unanswered.
Caijing Magazine's Huang Shan suggested that Wang would be
reassigned to a semi-retirement position as a National
People's Congress Committee Chairman around the beginning of
the 2010. Politburo member nephew Chen Jieren noted that the
frontrunners to replace Wang included Hunan Party Secretary
Zhang Chunxian, Tibet Party Secretary Zhang Qingli, and
Public Security Minister Meng Jianzhu. Chen noted that the
Party's decision on Wang's replacement would be an important
indicator of how it planned to proceed in Xinjiang. The
appointment of Zhang Qingli or Meng would suggest a more
hardline, security-focused approach.

BEIJING 00002731 004 OF 004


HUNTSMAN