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Ringing the Job Changes

A New Year inter-provincial reshuffle of key personnel reflects the Party’s desire to groom a new generation of capable leaders and officials

By NewsChina Updated Mar.1

Li Wei, who had just left his post as director of the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission (SASAC) of Liaoning Provincial Government, turned up at the standing committee of Qingdao CPC municipal committee, Shandong Province, on December 28. Just one of the recent examples of China’s ongoing nationwide adjustment of provincial bureau-level officials, Li is the first official sent to Qingdao from outside Shandong Province. 

As 2019 drew to a close and right before the opening of annual provincial legislative meetings, there have been many inter-provincial reassignments. Between December 21 and 28, at least 33 bureau-level officials have taken office in new provinces or cities. The reshuffle of prominent provincial officials has involved more than 21 provinces like Shandong and Zhejiang, as well as major metropolises such as Shanghai, Beijing and Tianjin.  

This reshuffle has attracted much attention. Previously, posts were switched higher up the official career ladder, among ministerial-level officials and provincial heads. But the practice is expected to become a new norm, experts said, and the widened scope of post-swapping is expected to help stimulate enthusiasm among officials in developing the economy and helping to groom officials for more important posts. 

Young and Well-educated
This reshuffle started in December. On December 21, two provincial bureau-level officials from Shandong and Zhejiang provinces took office as division leaders of Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. They were followed by other officials. On December 24 and 25 alone, 17 officials were moved to other provinces or provincial-level municipalities including Beijing, Tianjin, Shanghai and Chongqing.  

Some officials just moved from one city to another in a different province, without changes in their title. For example, Li Meng, former Party secretary of Tongling municipal committee in Anhui Province, is now Party secretary of Dezhou municipal committee, Shandong Province. Some were transferred from provincial-level government bodies to cities in other provinces or districts of municipalities. Xu Yongke, former director of the Water Resource Department of Guangdong Province, became Party secretary of Qinzhou, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, for example.  

The movement also involves officials from provincial-level State-owned enterprises (SOEs). Li Yongping, CEO of Gansu Pharmaceutical Investment Group Company, took office as deputy Party secretary of Xining municipal committee, Qinghai Province in December.  

This is the first cross-province reshuffle for the majority of the 33 officials. About 60 percent of the officials were born in the 1970s, making them younger on average than their peers in officialdom. Seven were born after 1975, including Wang Liqi, a graduate of Tsinghua University in Beijing. Wang, born in 1977, just took office as deputy Party secretary of Jiuquan municipal committee, Gansu Province and is nominated for mayor. He is expected to be the youngest mayor in the country.  

Peng Yingmei, the youngest official among the group, was born in 1979 in Jiangxi Province. Peng studied in Jiangxi and had been working in the province for years, before taking office as deputy Party secretary of Panzhihua municipal committee in Sichuan Province this time. In 2014, she was promoted from the chief of Zixi County in Jiangxi to be a vice president of Jiangxi University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, which was regarded as a rare instance of skipping a level, because following the usual procedure she would need to be promoted to Party secretary of a county first before becoming a college vice president.  

Peng’s promotion is seen as a typical example of the Party’s adopting flexible ways to screen talented individuals. In Zixi County, Peng set her sights on developing an ecological economy, and using the internet to market tourist sights and products to build the county’s tourism brand. These efforts show that the young official dares to think and act and is creative in doing her job, according to experts.  

The officials involved in this reshuffle are also well-educated. More than 10 have a PhD and most have a master’s, specializing in fields from economics to engineering. Ding Chun, the new Party secretary of Tongling municipal committee in Anhui, for example, has a PhD from the School of Management & Engineering at Nanjing University. 

Honing Capability
This round of job adjustments shows that different places are responding to the requirements of the Central Organization Department (COD), the Communist Party of China’s (CPC) top personnel management organ, in enhancing exchanges among officials.  

On December 24, at a gathering of officials in Wuhai, a city in North China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, Tang Yi was named deputy Party secretary of Wuhai municipal committee and a nominee for mayor. In the meeting, Sun Fu, vice director of the autonomous region’s organization department, said that the reassignment was made according to the COD’s policy of selecting and sending excellent officials to other provinces and autonomous regions.  

Sun added that the mobility of officials initiated by the COD is an important tool for building and enhancing the Party’s leadership as instructed by General Secretary of the CPC Central Committee Xi Jinping, which is of great significance in driving forward high-quality economic development and the modernization of the national governance system and capability.  

In March, the CPC Central Committee released revised regulations on the selection and appointment of Party and government officials, in which “enhancing the exchange of officials” between different places and departments is emphasized.  

According to the regulations, officials that need to be transferred include those who have worked in a place or a department for a long time. Party and government leaders who have served 10 years in one position should be transferred. Young officials who lack grass-roots work experience should be sent to remote and less-developed areas and places with tricky situations in a planned manner, and these officials should not take the moves as a chance to polish their resumes. 

After the release of the revised regulations and before the large reshuffle, at least three bureau-level officials were transferred, all from Jiangsu Province to Tianjin.  

An official from Shandong Province who asked for anonymity told NewsChina that it is common for provincial bureau-level officials to stay in one locale. They understand the situation where they are invested emotionally. But for many, once they stay in a place for too long, it hinders them from broadening their perspectives. Through the inter-province exchange, they could be sent to places with different levels of economic development and new regional cultures, and thus their enthusiasm could be renewed, which is good for their personal growth.  

New Trend
Zhuang Deshui, vice director of Peking University’s Clean Government Research Center, told NewsChina that the exchange of bureau-level officials will become a trend, as perceived from the multi-directional mobility of officials in recent years. He said that before the release of the regulations there were already many people calling for officials to be moved to a new province as a way to promote regional growth, development and personal growth.  

Zhuang said that officials transferred to a new province bring with them the experience and resources they have accumulated for years to the new place, which will promote economic development there.  

Meanwhile, Zhang said, an official could grow sluggish working in one place for a long time, so inter-province mobility will help stimulate their enthusiasm and foster healthier competition among officials.  

Last but not least, transferring officials to different posts is an institutional advantage for the CPC in managing its personnel, which also caters to the realistic demand of grooming officials. The officials involved in this round of adjustment are all in their prime, so assigning them to different provinces will help them adapt to varied positions and regions. It will also help the Party to cultivate and select officials who are outstanding and are ready to take on the responsibility of more important jobs, Zhuang said.