Replaced and warned, leadership in Hubei and Wuhan undergoes shakeup

Zaobao correspondent Yang Danxu does a roundup of the leadership changes in Hubei and Wuhan due to the Covid-19 epidemic, and finds out that more is yet to come.
Workers in protective suits at a checkpoint for registration and body temperature measurement, at an entrance to a residential compound in Wuhan. Major leadership changes have been announced in an effort to control the epidemic. (Reuters)
Workers in protective suits at a checkpoint for registration and body temperature measurement, at an entrance to a residential compound in Wuhan. Major leadership changes have been announced in an effort to control the epidemic. (Reuters)

Major leadership changes have been announced in Hubei. 

Shanghai mayor Ying Yong moving to Hubei as party secretary

Shanghai mayor Ying Yong is replacing Jiang Chaoliang as Hubei party secretary. Jiang is the highest-ranking official so far to be removed due to the Covid-19 epidemic, which has hit Hubei the hardest. (Note 1)

The 63-year-old Ying Yong is a second-level Justice with a Masters in Law and over 30 years of experience in the justice system. In January 2017, Ying Yong took over from Yang Xiong as Shanghai mayor; he was elected a full member of the 19th Central Committee of the CCP in October 2017.

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Ying Yong will take over as Hubei party secretary. (CNS)

Ying Yong came in contact with CCP secretary-general Xi Jinping in both Zhejiang and Shanghai, and is seen as one of Xi’s “New Zhejiang Army” (close associates from Xi’s Zhejiang party secretary days). Analysts feel that Ying Yong’s deployment to Hubei in its time of need shows the trust of the senior leaders, and is also a test for him. (Note 2)

Shandong and Jinan's Wang Zhonglin moving to Hubei and Wuhan

Shandong standing committee member and Jinan party secretary Wang Zhonglin is replacing Ma Guoqiang as Hubei standing committee member and Wuhan party secretary. (Note 3)

Wang Zhonglin, 58, has previously built his career in his hometown of Shandong. His previous posts include standing committee member for Zaozhuang city, deputy secretary and mayor of Liaocheng city, as well as director of the Shandong Provincial Development and Reform Commission.

In November 2016, he was acting mayor for Jinan, and named mayor in April 2017. In May 2018, he became a standing committee member for Shandong, and Jinan party secretary.

wang zhonglin
Wang Zhonglin will come in as Hubei standing committee member and Wuhan party secretary. (CNS)

Shake-up to continue

The crisis response and management ability of policymakers in Hubei and Wuhan have been called into question following the outbreak, and China’s senior leadership is making changes in Hubei in an effort to change the passive approach to fighting the epidemic. This round of leadership changes follows the quick appointment of Wang Hesheng as Hubei standing committee member and head of the Hubei Health Commission.

However, academics foresee that the changes in Hubei are not yet over. After Jiang Chaoliang and Ma Guoqiang, Hubei governor Wang Xiaodong and Wuhan mayor Zhou Xianwang are on the brink of being asked to leave.

Analysts feel that changing policymakers amid uncertainty might delay efforts against the epidemic and put pressure on those who recommended the new appointees. The leadership changes in Hubei could also mean that the worst of the epidemic is over, and the priority for the new people is to get the epidemic to turn as soon as possible and lift the lockdown on Hubei.

However, academics foresee that the changes in Hubei are not yet over. After Jiang Chaoliang and Ma Guoqiang, Hubei governor Wang Xiaodong and Wuhan mayor Zhou Xianwang are on the brink of being asked to leave.

Following the lockdown on Wuhan, Wang claimed that reserves and supplies were sufficient, but there were quick reports of a shortage of medical supplies in Wuhan and Hubei. At a press conference on the epidemic on 26 January, Wang misspoke several times, and was harshly criticised for being sloppy and irresponsible.

Zhou was also slammed for wearing his mask the wrong way around at that press conference. At an earlier interview with CCTV, he declared his willingness to step down to appease the people, and claimed that he was unable to reveal information in the initial stages of the epidemic because he was not authorised to do so, prompting the internet community to criticise him for shirking his responsibilities.

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Medical staff leaving for Wuhan, February 2020. It is hoped that the leadership changes will help to effectively control the epidemic. (AFP)

Someone has to be responsible 

Professor Tang Renwu of Beijing Normal University says the epidemic has brought China to a standstill and caused enormous losses to its economy, and someone has to take responsibility. Senior officials in Hubei and Wuhan will lose their jobs and be held accountable.

The authorities did not reveal yesterday whether further action will be taken against Jiang and Ma, apart from being removed.

Prof Tang also foresees that the mayors of Hubei and Wuhan will not escape accountability.

Hubei Red Cross's officials removed and warned 

Some analysts also feel that officials in organisations such as the National Health Commission, Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, and Hubei’s Red Cross Association should also bear responsibility for issues such as misjudgement of the epidemic and lapses in efforts against it. For poor efficiency in distributing donated items, Hubei Red Cross deputy director Zhang Qin was removed, while Hubei Red Cross party chief and executive vice director Gao Qin was given a warning, and Hubei Red Cross party member Chen Bo was given a serious warning and a serious administrative demerit.

The 2003 SARS epidemic also led to a shakeup in China’s public officers, with officials such as health minister Zhang Wentai and Beijing mayor Meng Xuenong fired for ineptitude. Hainan party secretary Wang Qishan took over as Beijing mayor, while vice premier Wu Yi was concurrently health minister. Gao Qiang, assistant secretary of the State Council, became party secretary for the Ministry of Health and the deputy minister of its standing committee.

Notes:

1. Former Hubei party secretary Jiang Chaoliang is one of the few provincial-level officials with a background in finance. The career of the 63-year-old includes the Agricultural Bank of China and the People’s Bank of China. He was appointed mayor of Jilin in 2014, and promoted to Hubei party secretary two years later.

2. Ying Yong previously worked in Taizhou and Shaoxing, later serving in Zhejiang as deputy head of the Public Security Bureau, deputy party committee secretary and deputy secretary of the Provincial Commission for Discipline Inspection, head of the Provincial Department of Supervision, as well as president and party secretary of the Provincial High Court.

In December 2007, he left his hometown of Zhejiang and went to Shanghai, to be the president of Shanghai’s High Court from January 2008. After the 18th National Congress of the CCP in 2012, his career was fast-tracked. In 2013, he became the head of the Organisation Department of the Shanghai Municipal Party Committee, and a member of its party standing committee. He was named deputy party secretary for Shanghai in 2014, and vice mayor in September 2016.

3. Former Wuhan party secretary Ma Guoqiang, 57, joined politics less than two years ago. He previously worked in state-owned enterprises Baoshan Iron and Steel Co. Ltd and Wuhan Iron and Steel Corporation, and only became deputy party secretary for Hubei in March 2018, and subsequently, Wuhan party secretary, taking over from secretary general of the Central Political and Legal Affairs Commission Chen Yixin. Chen has recently also returned to Hubei as deputy head of the national team overseeing the handling of the outbreak in the province.

Related readings: Wuhan mayor sloppy and irresponsible according to Chinese netizens | The politics behind the change of leaders in Hubei