Hu Chunhua 胡春华
19th Politburo Member. Previously a front runner to be a 6th generation leader of China. Served in Tibet and may speak 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. Party Secretary of Guangdong 2012 – 2017.
Prospects: First promoted to the Politburo in 2012 but missed out on promotion to the 19th Politburo Standing Committee in 2017. Appointed Vice Premier March 2018.
Relevance to Tibet: Familiar with Tibet. SCMP says he learned the Tibetan language and mixed with the local people. Leadership prospects unclear.
Standing in the Party and Career Highlights:
Hu Chunhua’s previous status as a rising 6th generation star has been blighted by his being Hu Jintao’s protégé. For some years – along with the disgraced Sun Zhengcai – Hu was talked of as a front-runner to become a possible General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party in 2022, due to the “tradition” of former leaders selecting their successor’s successor, but Xi Jinping’s overwhelming power and influence have swept away both such traditions and any limits to his term of office.
Prior to the 19th Party Congress Hu, along with newly rising 6th generation colleague Chen Min-er, were considered likely join the Politburo Standing Committee member. However, neither Hu, Chen, not any 6th generation leader were promoted to the Politburo Standing Committee, prompting speculation that Xi Jinping was planning to remove the two-term limit for Party leaders. This change which was approved in March 2018.
Hu retained his Politburo membership and on 28 October 2017 was replaced as Party Secretary of Guangdong Province by Xi ally and new Politburo colleague Li Xi. His Vice-Premier role is reported by the South China Morning Post to include responsibility for fulfilling Xi’s pledge to lift 55 million people out of poverty by the end of the decade.
Called Little Hu (‘xiao Hu”) by media to differentiate him from Hu Jintao and stress their close connection. In September 2012, Reuters reported that Hu Jintao’s efforts to get Hu Chunhua promoted to the 18th Politburo Standing Committee (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.
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.”
Quotations By/Comments About:
- Willy Lam, October 2017: “His career has peaked,” He could be made one of the vice-premiers next March or be given a party job that is respectable but does not carry much power.
- Hu Chunhua (20 September 2004) “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.
- 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.”
- Reuters profile, October 2012
Hu Chunhua’s Contact Information:
- Address: Zhongnanhai, Xi Chang’an Jie, Beijing 100017.
- Website: www.gov.cn
- Phone: + 86 10 6307 0913
- Fax: + 86 10 6307 0900
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Background information about Sixth Generation Leaders:
“Sixth generation” leaders were, in theory, due to reach the top in 2022, when the leaders who took office in 2012 have served two five-year terms. [Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang are fifth generation; Mao Zedong was first generation.] However, with Xi Jinping’s removal of the two-term limit, there is no telling when – or if – this generation will get its chance to lead.
Born in the 1960s, a number of sixth generation officials have been named by China commentators in recent years as having serious leadership prospects. They include: Hu Chunhua, Zhou Qiang, Nur Bekri, Lu Hao, Chen Min’er, Zhang Qingwei and Zhang Guoqing. Names that were previously on this list but have suffered political downfall are Sun Zhengcai and Su Shilin.
The tradition of former leaders selecting their successor’s successor – which applied to Deng Xiaoping (choosing Hu Jintao) and Jiang Zemin (choosing Xi himself) – would appear to be in serious doubt. 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.”
A general summary of this age group by Melinda Liu, Newsweek, October, 2007:
Melinda Liu, writing in Newsweek in October, 2007, said: The ’60s Generation, as they’re also known, are seen as worldlier, more traveled and less doctrinaire than any previous Chinese generation….. the Gen-Sixers are less ideological and more market-savvy; their peers include private-sector millionaires and environmental activists. But they’re also apt to be nationalistic, even arrogant, some analysts say. “They lack the humility of [their elders],” says Cheng Li, a Sinologist at the Brookings Institution in Washington. “Some of them are quite spoiled, in my view.”