Nov 19, 2012

Singapore - Politicians friendly to S'pore in China ranks

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Patchy at the top but not too bad further down the rungs.

After cultivating several Chinese politicians in recent years, the Singapore Government will find a rather mixed report card when it analyses the new Chinese leadership chosen last week.

Not all the bets of the island-nation have paid off.

At the level of the 376-member Central Committee, the news is quite bright.

Several Singapore-friendly politicians were promoted to this elite body for the first time.

"Those who are promoted to the Central Committee and are young enough may enter the Politburo later," said East Asian Institute analyst Chen Gang.

"The familiarity they have now with Singapore may lead them to focus on economic, trade and investment links with Singapore," he added.

Most of Singapore's focus at the Central Committee level would be on Communist Youth League leader Lu Hao, 45.

He has been making regular exchanges with the People's Action Party's youth wing and is seen as a likely player in the leadership that will take charge in 2022.

Joining him in the Central Committee is General Liu Yazhou, 60, political commissar of the National Defence University and a known admirer of the Singapore system. Gen Liu's promotion bodes well for bilateral as well as military ties between Singapore and Beijing. The outspoken general is spearheading a documentary project by state broadcaster Central China Television to chronicle the Republic's development.

However, it is the rise of lesser-known Yunnan deputy party boss Qiu He, 55, which has stirred excitement among observers.

He is an alternate, rather than full member of the Central Committee, which means he gets no voting rights. Still, the appointment could signal his promotion to Yunnan party boss soon.

When Qiu was in charge of the provincial capital Kunming, he had publicly pushed party cadres to learn about Singapore and surpass the city-state.

It is likely that he will step up efforts to emulate or work with Singapore when he gets a bigger role, said Professor Lu Yuanli of Shenzhen University's Centre for Singapore Studies.

However, several members at the higher party level, seen as close friends of Singapore, failed to move up. Two Politburo high-fliers with close Singapore links were left out of the seven-member elite Politburo Standing Committee (PSC).

They are organisation chief Li Yuanchao, 62, and Guangdong party boss Wang Yang, 57.

But Dr Chen reckoned that the two men still stand a chance of entering the PSC in 2017.

Two Singapore-friendly politicians who made it into the elite body are new disciplinary chief Wang Qishan, 64, and presumptive executive vice-premier Zhang Gaoli, 66. Wang has been driving bilateral relations with Singapore for the past four years while Zhang is party chief of Tianjin, where the flagship Sino-Singapore project, Tianjin Eco-City, is coming up.

"Zhang's knowledge and understanding of Singapore may boost bilateral economic cooperation," said Prof Lu.

However, there was no promotion for the so-called "Suzhou clique" of three former party chiefs of Suzhou, where the first flagship Sino-Singapore project, Suzhou Industrial Park (SIP), took off. The trio, including Chen Deming, are known to be close to Singapore because of the SIP.

The biggest surprise was Chen, 63, the commerce minister. He had been widely tipped to enter the Politburo and become a vice-premier. But he lost even his seat as an alternate member of the Central Committee.

Another Suzhou old boy, Liaoning party boss Wang Min, 62, also did not make it into the Politburo but remains in the Central Committee. The third is Wang Rong, 54, party chief of Shenzhen, who is still an alternate member in the Central Committee.

Kor Kian Beng 

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