Jiang Zemin is back in action, apparently trying to complicate the predictions of who will take power next year:
His re-emergence on Sunday was “highly political,” Cheng Li, a scholar of elite Chinese politics at the Brookings Institution in Washington, said in an e-mail. The significance of Mr. Jiang’s sudden appearance, Mr. Li said, was similar to that of the recent publication of four volumes of speeches by Zhu Rongji, who was prime minister under Mr. Jiang.
“Retired top leaders apparently want to have more say on the country’s economic policy, political succession and foreign relations, especially at a time when the Chinese public has become increasingly concerned about the administrative capacity and political unity of the current leadership,” Mr. Li said.
The expected jockeying over the succession is not likely to alter the presidency and party chairmanship — the designation of Vice President Xi Jinping, favored by Mr. Jiang, appears certain. But beyond that, the makeup of the next leadership could pivot in part on struggles between Mr. Jiang’s loyalists and those of the current president and party chief, Hu Jintao, over who will join the Politburo Standing Committee, the group at the top of the party hierarchy that governs China by consensus.
There are nine seats on the committee, but that could change.
In recent years, Mr. Jiang, whose base of support is known as the “Shanghai Gang,” used his influence to prevent one of Mr. Hu’s allies, Li Keqiang, from becoming the consensus choice as the next president. Mr. Li is expected to become the next prime minister.
The political maneuvering is so precarious that close family members of some leaders, including Mr. Xi, have been asked to stay out of Beijing so that their activities do not disrupt the succession process.