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Scenes from a Leadership Transition

Jiang Zemin’s Lyrical Memory

Compiled by Caixin

(Beijing)—A glance at off-hours correspondence between two veteran leaders has added a lighter dimension to the recent public appearances of former Politburo members in the run-up to the party’s 18th National Congress.

Li Lanqing, who served as vice premier between 1998 and 2003, described in a newspaper article October 31 his recent correspondence with Jiang Zemin, China’s president from 1993 to 2003, about some of their favorite songs from the past.

One exchange in February, Li wrote for the article appearing in the official People’s Daily newspaper, focused on their mutual interest in a relatively obscure American tune composed in the 1930s called “Moonlight and Shadows.”

Li, 82, said Jiang wrote from memory the song’s lyrics and musical notation. But the former president admitted he was a bit confused by a vintage vinyl record, which he also included in the letter to Li, confirming the accuracy of lyrics in his memory but set to a different tune.

Jiang, 86, asked for Li’s help in getting it straight.

“Please help me find the original sheet music” that could explain the discrepancy, the ex-president wrote.

Li said he went to great lengths to track down the song’s origins. He found it was the composed by Leo Robin and Frederick Hollander as the soundtrack for the 1936 American movie Jungle Princess, starring sex symbol Dorothy Lamour.

Yet Li also found there are different versions of the song, and wanted to know why. He consulted several older English professors, and each agreed that the song in Jiang’s memory is the original.

Li wrote that many Chinese students who loved foreign music were also active communists during the 1930s and ‘40s. One of them was Jiang, who still remembers many of that era’s melodies, including not-so-revolutionary songs.

The People’s Daily published Li’s account as China’s leaders prepare for the opening of the congress set for November 8 and the subsequent once-in-a-decade leadership transition.

During a recent public appearance, Jiang met with officials from Shanghai Ocean University to discuss the school’s history and upcoming centennial.

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Retired Premier Lauds Work on Aging Dam

Compiled by Caixin

iconFeng Li/Getty Images
Former Chinese Premier Li Peng attending the celebration of the Communist Party’s 90th anniversary at the Great Hall of the People on July 1, 2011, in Beijing.

(Beijing)—Former premier Li Peng has stepped back into the public spotlight by writing congratulatory remarks for the ceremonial start-up of a controversial dam project in northeastern China.

Li sent a laudatory letter that was read at the October 29 groundbreaking for the project to rebuild the Fengman Hydroelectric Dam.

Li stepped down from the Standing Committee of the Politburo in 2002. He is one of several retired state leaders who in recent weeks have made public appearances or released public statements prior to the Communist Party’s 18th National Congress.

The National Development and Reform Commission recently approved the estimated 9.2 billion yuan Fengman Dam overhaul project, which is being coordinated by power distribution giant State Grid. The dam, on the Songhua River near the city of Jilin, was originally built in stages between 1937 and 1953.

The reconstruction plan had been widely criticized by engineering experts. Some said the dam should be completely replaced, while others argued that only certain portions should be upgraded.

Li said in his letter that the top-to-bottom reconstruction is the safest option, as it will eliminate risks, improve the dam’s power-generating capacity, and help prevent flooding in the region.

The task involves building a new dam 120 meters downstream from the original, which will be partially demolished. The existing hydropower generators will be moved to the new dam.

Fifteen experts on a twenty-one-member assessment team in 2010 found the existing dam was structurally sound and could function for another decade. But the remaining six experts, five of whom were installed based on recommendations from State Grid, disagreed.

After its completion in 1953, Fengman Dam was known as the “Mother of China’s Hydropower Projects.” Today it remains the largest hydropower plant in the northeast.

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Party Discipline Officials Win Promotions

By Caixin staff reporter Chen Baocheng

(Beijing)—A personnel shuffle has been announced for the Communist Party’s anti-graft watchdog, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, ahead of the 18th National Congress.

The moves, announced by the State Council on October 29, follow a reshuffling of military leaders announced October 25.

High-level party disciplinary officials Huang Xiaowei and Yu Chunsheng were promoted as deputy ministers of supervision, increasing the number of deputy ministers from four to six.

Huang helped investigate Du Shicheng, former deputy party chief of Shandong province and party chief of Qingdao. Du received a life sentence in 2008 for taking bribes.

Yu, 51, served as a prosecutor in Beijing and deputy head of discipline for the Beijing city government.

Four of the watchdog’s eight bureaus are in charge of supervising party members who serve as central government officials ranked at the deputy minister level and above. The rest are responsible for party members who serve at least as deputy provincial governors for local governments.

A probe of a high-level official usually starts with the party discipline commission before police get involved.

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Why Read This?

As the Communist Party prepares for its leadership turnover, China watchers are reading the tea leaves to discern what appear to be signals hidden between the lines of Politburo-related publicity circulating in Beijing. Central government media has served as a conduit to convey the apparent messages from behind the party’s bamboo curtain. These include curious snippets about songs in Jiang Zemin’s past and Li Peng’s support for a dam project. Caixin rejiggered and retold a few of these items after they were published by official outlets. The coverage intrigued tea-leaf interpreters but, perhaps more significantly, has helped deflect attention from the tension building in Beijing as the 18th Party Congress approaches.

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