September 26th 2015

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY Abbott era ends as Liberals oust elected PM

EDITORIAL The future of the Liberals after leadership coup

FAMILY AND SOCIETY Vulnerable GLBT youth pawns in plebiscite game

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS Cuts in aid trigger mass migration: more to come?

NATIONAL AFFAIRS Labor campaign to 'get' Dyson Heydon backfires

FOREIGN AFFAIRS China's official media hints at power struggle in Beijing

ASIA Taiwan: no longer the Kingdom of Youth

MILITARY HISTORY Antony Beevor at the Australian War Memorial

LIFE ISSUES Assisted suicide and our society of autonomy

SCIENCE You can trust research papers (we think; we hope)

PUBLIC HEALTH Taxpayer funding offers no immunity from failure

MINING Supreme Court dismisses attack on Qld Land Court

CINEMA Technology and the antisocial network: The Social Network

BOOK REVIEW Hollow Heroes: An Unvarnished Look at the Careers of Churchill, Montgomery and Mountbatten, by Michael Arnold


NATIONAL AFFAIRS Turnbull divides party in Cabinet reshuffle

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China's official media hints at power struggle in Beijing

by Peter Westmore

News Weekly, September 26, 2015

Commentaries appearing in the official Chinese media hint at a power struggle in the upper echelons of the Chinese Communist Party. The party is facing unprecedented pressure as a result of the slowing economy and the stockmarket collapse that has damaged the savings of millions of China’s new middle class. Not to mention its pathetic response to the horrific explosion in central Tianjin in which over 100 people died.

President Xi Jinping, right,

with Barack Obama

The Government had encouraged stockmarket investment as a means of expanding companies’ sources of capital, and to encourage productive investment rather than speculation in housing, gambling and the like.

The Epoch Times recently reported that articles had appeared in the People’s Daily in August which hinted at the power struggle. On August 10 the People’s Daily, the mouthpiece of the Chinese Communist Party, published an editorial with the obscure title: “Dialectical view: ‘The tea goes cold when the guest leaves’.” The editorial was reportedly warning former president Jiang Zemin to stay out of politics.


First victim

Since coming to power in 2012, Xi Jinping has attacked the old guard – Jiang and his supporters.

One of the first victims was Bo Xilai, a member of the politburo who was tried and convicted of corruption. Bo’s wife was convicted of corruption and the murder of a British businessman. Bo was the son of one of Chairman Mao’s inner circle from the time of the communist conquest of China in 1949.

Although he acquired a reputation for encouraging economic growth, Bo was emphatic that the control of the Chinese Communist Party over all aspects of life in China, including the economy, be maintained at all costs, as happened at the time of the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989 and the Falun Gong crackdown in 1999.

Bo spoke glowingly of a revival of the “Cultural Revolution” – the Maoist uprising in the 1960s which signalled that the Communist Party would not relax its grip over any aspect of life in China, and led to the death and destruction of many of the party’s reformers.

In 2012, Bo Xilai was accused of corruption and removed from office. At about the same time, Zhou Yongkang, the minister for public security and a protege of Jiang Zemin, was also forced from office. In 2013 he was charged with corruption and expelled from the Chinese Communist Party. Zhou is currently serving a term of life imprisonment for corruption.

These actions reflect divisions at the highest level of the Chinese Communist Party. Recent developments indicate that the dispute is continuing. Last month, a large stone monument, containing a quotation from Jiang Zemin, was removed from outside the Central Party Training School in Beijing.

Even recent disasters in China have become entangled in the political struggle. On August 12, huge explosions ripped apart the port area of the coastal city of Tianjin, apparently involving an extremely dangerous chemical, sodium cyanide, which is used in the extraction of gold from crushed ore.

According to the BBC, the huge warehouse that exploded also contained calcium carbide, a chemical which reacts with water to form the explosive gas acetylene; as well as potassium nitrate, sodium nitrate and ammonium nitrate, all of which are explosive under the right circumstances. The explosion caused the loss of over 100 lives, and many people are still missing.

City officials were utterly unconvincing in TV interviews after the disaster, insisting that they did not know what chemicals were in the warehouse, and denying persistent complaints from locals that the ground, air and water had been polluted in the explosion: they did not know what had exploded, but they knew that it was safe!

Photos of a new car storage area near the port show thousands of new motor vehicles completely incinerated by the explosion. Renault says it lost 1,500 cars, Hyundai 4,000.

It happens that a close ally of former president Jiang Zemin, named Zhang Gaoli, was the Communist Party chief of Tianjin until three years ago, where he had jurisdiction over the Binhai New Area, where the explosions occurred. Zhang is now a Vice-Premier of China and a member of the seven-man Standing Committee of the Chinese Communist Party.

From 2007 to 2012, Zhang served as party secretary of Tianjin, a city of over 12 million people on the northern Chinese coast, not far from Beijing. Several mainland Chinese news media have criticised him for negligence and corruption in office, which contributed to the hazardous conditions that precipitated the industrial explosions.

According to Boxun, a Chinese-language, U.S.-based publication, the company that owned the chemical storage warehouse at the centre of the disaster was under the control of Zhang’s in-laws.

Insiders in contact with Boxun said that Zhang, exercising his influence, had granted his in-laws the permit to establish the deadly storage facilities despite an unfavourable environmental and safety assessment.

It remains to be seen how President Xi Jinping will navigate China’s present troubles, or whether he himself will be ousted by his rivals.

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