The transfer of a Party secretary in charge of a city mired in last year’s vaccine scandal raises the question of whether he is being exiled or elevated.
On 23 January, Wang Junzheng 王君正 Changchun Party secretary chaired the first meeting of the city’s expanded Production Safety Committee, reviewing its work in 2018 and setting 2019 goals.
Less than 3 weeks later, just as Spring Festival celebrations concluded, came news of Wang’s transfer to Xinjiang to serve on the province’s Standing Committee.
The announcement took many by surprise. Unlike Tibet, Xinjiang is not known as a place where future Politburo members are groomed. At the same time, being posted to Xinjiang does not doom an official to ignominy in exile as it once did. The abruptness of Wang’s relocation makes matters all the more puzzling, as he spoke about Changchun’s 2019 plans on a number of recent occasions.
Speculation centres on Wang’s role in the Changchun vaccine scandal of summer 2018. In a quality control incident that provoked widespread public outrage, the pharmaceutical company Changchun Changsheng was found to have sold substandard vaccines and falsified production data. Premier Li Keqiang 李克强 said that such behavior transgressed a ‘moral baseline’. Commentary in a Party newspaper as the scandal unfolded contended that poor communication from local government was the real culprit, exacerbating anxiety and allowing panic to spread. Resignations, removals, reprimands and self-criticisms ensued, as central, provincial and city-level officials alike were targeted and sanctioned. Wang, however, escaped formal censure, even though he was in charge of the city and admitted in a farewell essay that ‘some things could have been done better’. That has led some observers to conclude that the transfer is a promotion for handling the incident appropriately, while others see it as a measure taken by Wang’s patrons to protect him.
While Wang’s precise role and position in Xinjiang are not yet public, his relocation says more about the needs of the province than his own political prospects. The region is in a state of lockdown, as local authorities there seek new, more draconian measures to combat what they see as threats from ‘terrorists’ and ‘separatists’. At the same time, there have been growing signs that provincial cadres may be too preoccupied with maintaining social stability to manage themselves. Officials in Xinjiang have been singled out in recent months for paying insufficient attention to poverty alleviation goals, and embezzling funds allocated to achieve them. For every piece of praise received by the province, there is criticism launched at lapses in basic discipline and oversight. And some visiting delegations are cautiously urging their counterparts in Xinjiang to broaden their policy focus and approach social challenges by focusing more on economic progress and less on punishing residents.
What Wang does in his new role will, of course, affect his prospects for promotion. Like Xi Jinping 习近平, his career path has been largely one of political firefighting—arriving in a place with problems, working to solve them, and then moving on or up after a few years. Many leading cadres are like that in recent years; it is not factions that have formed but task forces of Party officials who are assigned to fix what is broken, and use that knowledge in their next posting. Certainly ideological fealty and political loyalty matter; but experience matters just as much. Wang Junzheng’s political future and Xinjiang’s next steps are now connected.
Wang Junzheng 王君正 Party Standing Committee, Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region
Largely hewing to prevailing Party strategy and slogans, Wang has also been outspoken about his commitment to the welfare of places and residents he has served, often allowing local conditions to steer implementation of central policies. In Changchun, he focused on building what he termed ‘a modern, livable city that local people are proud of and outsiders yearn for.’ Wang also made his mark by assembling officials there who he noted were loyal, clean, and reached collective decisions after debating approaches—code words for a leader who listens and is open to new ideas.
Han nationality, born in May 1963, Linyi, Shandong, joined the Party in November 1987.
Feb 2019: Member, Party Standing Committee, Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region
Jan 2016: Member, Party Standing Committee of Jilin, Secretary of the Changchun Municipal Party Committee
Sep 2013–Jan 2016: Member, Party Standing Committee of Hubei, Secretary of the Fuyang Municipal Party Committee, and Director of the Standing Committee of the Municipal People’s Congress
Aug 2013–Sep 2013: Member, Party Standing Committee of Hubei, Secretary of the Fuyang Municipal Party Committee
Jun 2013–Aug 2013: Member, Party Standing Committee of Hubei, Vice Governor, Secretary of Fuyang Municipal Party Committee
May 2013–Jun 2013: Deputy Governor of Hubei, Secretary of Xiangyang Municipal Party Committee
Sep 2012–May 2013: Vice Governor of Hubei
Dec 2009–Sep 2012: Secretary of Lijiang Municipal Party Committee
Nov 2007–Dec 2009: Mayor, Lijiang and Deputy Secretary, Lijiang Municipal Party Committee
Jun 2007–Nov 2007: Deputy Mayor, Acting Mayor, Lijiang, Deputy Secretary of Lijiang Party Municipal Committee
May 2007–Jun 2007: Deputy Secretary, Lijiang Municipal Party Committee, Yunnan
Sep 1998–Jul 2006: Tsinghua University School of Economics and Management, Business Administration, in-service postgraduate study, Ph.D. in Management
Jan 2005–May 2007: Vice President of the Yunnan Higher People’s Court
Nov 2003–Jan 2005: Deputy Secretary Kunming Municipal Committee, in charge of Propaganda Department
Oct 2003–Nov 2003: Deputy Secretary, Organisation Department of Kunming Municipal Committee
Nov 2000–Oct 2003: Section Head, Organisation Department, Kunming Municipal Committee
Dec 1998–Nov 2000: Secretary of the Political and Legal Committee Member, Kunming Municipal Standing Committee
Oct 1998–Dec 1998: Member of the Kunming Municipal Standing Committee
Jun 1995–Oct 1998: Secretary, Guandu District Party Committee of Kunming, Yunnan
Sep 1994 –Jun 1995: Deputy Secretary, Guandu District Party Committee of Kunming, Yunnan
Oct 1993–Sep 1994: Deputy Secretary, Yunnan Party Committee General Office
Aug 1988–Oct 1993: Staff member, Deputy Director General Office of the Ministry of Labour, director of the office of the Minister
Jul 1985–Aug 1988: Masters degree in Science and Socialism, People’s University of China
Sep 1981–Jul 1985: Student of Scientific Socialism, Department of Scientific Socialism, Shandong University