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Week of August 23, 2002

Week of August 23, 2002

The U.S. and China This Week

DOMESTIC: Jiang maneuvers to retain power

President Jiang Zemin is trying to persuade several key Politburo members to support his bid to postpone retirement and allow him to retain his position of CCP General Secretary. A party cadre has said that Jiang will engage in secret, one-on-one talks in the coming days, offering inducements to key Politburo members in return for their support. He also said that Jiang's advisors will likely support the creation of new Singaporean-style senior minister positions in the government cabinet. Jiang could then offer these positions to Zhu Rongji and Li Peng, both 73, early next year.

In general, Jiang has refused to give any indication of his future political plans. At the Beidaihe leadership meetings which ended early last week, the question of Jiang's retirement was not on the agenda. However, it is understood that during the first half of the meetings, Zhu and Li Ruihuan attempted to prevent Jiang's power bid. The two put pressure on Jiang to reveal whether or not he wants to keep general secretary position. However, fearing insufficient support, the President refused to say one way or the other, saying only that he would abide by the majority view. Vice President Hu Jintao, until recently Jiang's apparent successor, indicated his unqualified support for Jiang's remaining in office.

Diplomatic analysts in Beijing are uncertain as to whether Jiang will be able to mount sufficient support for his position. The analysts said that Zhu, Li Ruihuan, and Wei Jiangxing had privately criticized the President for violating the informal convention adopted by the late Deng Xiaoping to retire at 70. Furthermore, many fourth generation cadres fear that Jiang's refusal to retire will hurt their own promotion prospects, and thus do not view it favorably.


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DOMESTIC: China increased anti-flood efforts

Amid rising fears that Hunan's Dongting lake will burst its banks, Chinese authorities have mobilized more than 80,000 people to strengthen flood defense measures. Laborers have been working around the clock to reinforce levees and dikes surrounding the lake in order to prevent its spilling over.

Officials declared a state of emergency in Hunan on Wednesday when water levels reached nearly two meters above its 32-meter flood warning mark. Around 10 million people are at risk if the one hundred or so dikes and levees surrounding Dongting lake do not hold. Tens of thousands of people have already been evacuated from the surrounding area.

Thus far there have been no reported deaths due to the flooding near the Dongting, and the heavy rains which have plagued Hunan this season have subsided. However, authorities warn that the crisis is far from over. Swollen rivers flowing into the Dongting will likely cause water levels to rise even further, and officials expect the waters to reach a flood crest in the coming days. If Dongting lake does burst its banks, water from the Yangtze could also threaten Hubei province and its capital, Wuhan.

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DOMESTIC: UN's Robinson pays final visit to China

In her final visit to China as the UN's human rights chief, Mary Robinson acknowledged China's progress on certain human rights issues. However she also cautioned that China still has a long way to go. Robinson credited Beijing with implementing minimal reforms in its "laogai" labor re-education system, but said that China needed to fully abolish the system in order to fulfill a UN covenant on civil and political rights which it has promised to ratify. Robinson also said that Chinese police and prison officers were now receiving human rights training, and that primary and secondary schools were now introducing human rights education into their curriculums. Nevertheless, human rights remain a concern, she warned, especially in regards to: wide use of the death penalty; persecution of outlawed groups such as Falun Gong; dilution of Tibetan culture; and incarceration in mental institutions for political reasons.

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The U.S. and China This Week
The U.S. and China This Week

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