Shanghai’s Tower of Babel
If you’ve been reading the Chinese press this week, you might have come across two strikingly unharmonious pieces of information.
I am speaking of the treatment of the Shanghai Tower news by China Daily (ht Shanghaiist). In the space of 3 days from 11/28 to 12/01 China Daily has changed its tune radically in two articles about the construction of the new tower, which started last Saturday.
The first article is pretty neutral. It announces the beginning of the works, and has Shanghai CCP’s Lin Xu declare that spending on infrastructure will “help companies to weather the crisis“.
The second article, an unsigned editorial, is ripe with criticism of about every possible aspect of the project. Including some juicy ones: “symbolizes that blind worship and race for skyscrapers has reached a new high” and “The money could still be spent better elsewhere on so many priorities“.
What is going on here? Who forced this article into Beijing’s China Daily, the largest English language newspaper in China? It is a quickly written and poorly edited/translated article, someone obviously overrode the usual procedures of the newspaper to get this text to press ASAP. Someone you wouldn’t dare to edit or reject.
And you know what, as I was reading these articles, the old song came to my head:
“Let us build a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth” And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children built. And the Lord said, Behold!”
Ah, arrogance, our old Shanghai friend! It looks like the Beijing lord is upset once again with his children. A new episode of the famous Beijing-Shanghai CCP feud that has gone in recent years all the way up to the Politburo. In case you missed some chapters here are the keys: ever since the Hu-Wen team came to power there has been a more or less hidden struggle between the two main factions in the CCP.
These are the two groups associated to Beijing and Shanghai, representing the Yin and the Yang of today’s Chinese politics. Here are some useful tags for your reference:
- Shanghai: business, the “New Right”, Jiang Zemin’s old clique, Real estate millionaires, Eastern China, get rich first and: To stop the crisis help the companies.
- Beijing: politics, the “New Left”, Hu and Wen, harmonious society, balanced development, Inland China, land reform and: To stop the crisis social fiscal policies.
Tectonic Study of Zhongnanhai
And perhaps now, in the light of recent events, it is time to do some political analysis and get some 2+2 together to add 8, as I said in my post of yesterday. This is the evidence we have:
1- Shanghai Tower unexpectedly bashed by Beijing based China Daily.
2- Billionaire Huang Guangyu arrested. While Huang is a son of Guangdong, part of the crimes investigated were committed in Shanghai, through his brother the Real Estate tycoon. More than possible connection with the Shanghai clique.
3- General nervousness observed, as in the aggressive reaction to latest Sarko – Lama meeting, which looked to me slightly rash for the usual behaviour of Chinese authorities. See analysis here.
Is it only me or are there some magmatic movements under the Beijing crust? I would say that Hu is moving to rally the troops and close ranks in advance of a potentially difficult 2009. Perhaps he is preparing the way for the controversial period when he tries to implement social fiscal policies, strongly opposed by some sections of the Party. Just as patriotic Dalai Lama incidents can consolidate Hu’s power bases outside the party, a few harsh words and the arrest of a billionaire consolidate his power inside it.
My conclusions might seem a bit far-fetched, I admit it, and the evidence is still weak. But the Chinese government is shrewd, and if we want to figure it out we need to use our imagination and think one step ahead.
So set your eyes on 2009 right now, and let me know what is your take on these events.
Credit Image: Gensler / Quotation: God
This is the latest of a series of entries about the Crisis and Chinese politics that I’ve posted this week on CHINAYOUREN. I am crossposting to try to get some more feedback from all the people in this forum who know China well. The objective is to sum up ideas and see if we get to understand a bit better what is going on behind the scenes today, and what are the most likely moves of the Chinese government for 2009.\
Chinese politics remain a mystery for most, and there are few real experts in this field. So feel free to post any ideas you might have, even if they sound too imaginative. Also, I am trying to build up a good blogroll on Chinese politics so if you have some good links (or books) that can help in this field please recommend.
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