Hu Chunhua 胡春华
Party Secretary of Guangdong
Politburo Member and possible future leader of China in 2022. Familiar with Tibet. Various reports say he speaks good Tibetan.
Pronunciation: Hoo Choon-hwa soundbite
Born: 1963 in Wuefeng Tujia Autonomous County, Hubei Province, of a peasant farmer family.
Education: BA in Chinese from Beijing University.
Career: Offered ‘cushy’ job in Beijing, declined in favor of going to Tibet where he served from 1983 to 2006/7; rose steadily in China Youth League (served as national head) and Party, becoming Deputy Party Secretary in the Tibet Autonomous Region, then Party Secretary of Inner Mongolia. In December 2012 appointed Party Secretary of Guangdong.
Prospects: Promoted to the Politburo in 2012 and until end of 2014 talked of as a possible Party General Secretary in 2022.
Relevance to Tibet: Familiar with Tibet and rumoured to speak good Tibetan. Could lead China in 2022.
Standing in the Party and Career Highlights:
Hu Jintao’s protégé and thought to be one of the three most senior members of 6th generation leaders; become a Politburo Member in 2012 and could become a member of the Politburo Standing Committee in 2017. Often touted as a possible General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party in 2022, due to the “tradition” of former leaders selecting their successor’s successor. However, Kerry Brown, writing in the Diplomat in December 2014 observed: “The idea of Xi Jinping’s predecessor Hu Jintao having much say in [the choice of next leader] seems to grow more remote with each passing day, as Xi appears more and more dominant. It goes against political, let alone psychological, logic to think that Xi might, for mere form’s sake, bow to Hu in his choice. So figures that were eagerly talked about in the past, like Hu Chunhua or Zhou Qiang, seem to be left in the shade now. They were too evidently Hu’s men, married to the low-profile, administrative, and technocratic leadership style so favored by him.”
However, on 26 January 2017 Hu Jintao – in company with Hu Chunhua – made a rare public appearance in a Guangzhou flower market. Some media observers (such as Nikkei Asia Review), speculated that this was a calculated move ahead of the 19th National Congress, and signalled a possible tussle over the future leadership of the Communist Party.
Called Little Hu (xiao Hu) by media to differentiate him from Hu Jintao and stress close connection. In September 2012, Reuters reported that Hu Jintao’s efforts to get Hu Chunhua promoted to the Politburo Standing Committee in 2012 (and thereby stack the PSC with his allies) had been foiled. In December 2012 Hu Chunhua was appointed Party Secretary of Guangdong. He is known in China as one of the few leaders who does not dye his hair and is described as relaxed, easy-going and spontaneous.
A Financial Times opinion piece by Jamil Anderlini in March 2011 about Hu and Sun Zhengcai’s positions as frontrunners for senior office, said; “At the annual meeting of China’s rubber-stamp legislature in Beijing this month neither man even bothered to turn up to the plenary sessions of their respective provinces, although dozens of journalists were there to glimpse the anointed ones. That may have been because of their desire to avoid a media circus, or because of orders from party leaders worried that if they build popular public personas too early, they could circumvent the careful succession process the party is trying to institutionalise.”
Credited with reviving economy of TAR, containing splittists, encouraging Han in-migration. Limited Foreign travel to date (eg Hungary in 2011). Hu Chunhua and other Hu Jintao appointees in recent years were seen as confirming a new preference for Party loyalists rather than professional administrators (apparatchiks versus technocrats) – a significant change that will have a major impact in the future.
US Ambassador Randt’s cable dated May 2007 contained this personal information: “Hu, who did not appear to speak or understand much English, said that he had studied Tibetan and was able to hold simple conversations when he was working at the grass-roots in Tibet, but that he had forgotten much of the language after he was promoted to the TAR Government and no longer used it regularly. He mentioned several times in the conversation his keen interest in Tibetan culture and religion. Hu appeared quite fit, but said his only exercise regimen is walking.” Willy Lam describes Hu as “self-effacing to a fault”.
In May 2011 Hu Chunhua faced a major test when a Mongolian herder was murdered by Han Chinese truck drivers. Outrage over the killing, directly linked to herder protests about coal mining in the region, sparked six days of demonstrations by thousands in the Mongolian capital Hohhot and elsewhere. While parts of the region were sealed off and internet access restricted, state media were quick to report that Hu met local students, saying “Please be assured, teachers and students, that the suspects … will be punished severely and quickly, so that the … rights of victims and their families can be resolutely safeguarded.” (Source: Reuters)
Hu faced further tests in Guangdong, where he inherited from Wang Yang significant unrest triggered by land-grabs. In early 2013 there were violent clashes in the village of Shangpu where rice fields were secretly sold; a court overturned the sale in March and arrested corrupt officials, but this was followed by further violence between villagers and police. Hu’s involvement in the court action or subsequent crackdown are unclear. Joseph Cheng, a political science professor at City University in Hong Kong, told Reuters: “These things to Hu Chunhua are even more important for him than other provincial leaders because of his potential. They could affect his image and affect the central government’s assessment of his performance.”
Potential Threats to Hu Chunhua’s continued rise to be 6th generation leader
- Lack of experience with the west and with the prosperous coastal regions (though in 2012 was moved to Guangdong, presumably for this reason).
- Failure to completely contain splittists in Tibet.
- Devotion to Party doctrine inhibits the very experimentation and boldness Hu Jintao himself calls for.
- Known avoidance of issues of reform of various types.
- Was governor of Hebei when the milk scandal occurred (though press reports that he brought awareness to it); there is speculation that Hu Jintao protected him from blame, while scandals in other provinces caused dismissal of top guys.
Quotations By/Comments About:
- US Ambassador Randt, Embassy Cable May 2007. “Adding that he is very drawn to Tibetan culture, Hu recognized that it is not easy for outsiders to change Tibet. Tibet has a long history and culture with many unique aspects. There are 29,000 government officials and 600 grassroots townships, but there are 46,000 monks and nuns and 1,700 Tibetan Buddhist religious sites. “I feel from being there that you don’t influence the Tibetans, they influence you,” Hu said.”
- Hu Chunhua, 1983, in a speech in the Great Hall of the People before he left for Tibet: “The areas of minority people are places where we can develop our skills to the full,”
- Willy Lam: He is…a politically correct neophyte who can be trusted to uphold the CCP’s “perennial ruling party” status. Like his patron, the younger Hu believes in harsh tactics against ethnic minorities such as Tibetans and Uighurs. Moreover, his having stayed in Tibet for two decades shows that he is tough both physically and mentally. The Deputy TAR Party Secretary, Hu Chunhua stated (September 20, 2004) that “opposing splittism remains the most serious task for the party and a dialogue with the Dalai Lama could be resumed only if he genuinely and publicly renounces his quest for Tibet independence”.
- Cheng Li at Brookings: These Han Chinese leaders [HuC and two others] were not necessarily all hardliners in their approach to the Tibet issue, but they were all known for their obedience to the orders of the central government and their firm control over this ethnically contentious region.
- Reuters profile, October 2012
Hu Chunhua’s Contact Information:
- Address: Guangdong Provincial General Office, 305 Dongfeng Zhonglu, Guangzhou
- Website: www.gd.gov.cn
- Phone: +86 20 8313 2003
- Fax: +86 20 8331 606