With Chen sacking, Beijing warns provinces to toe economic line
(toe the line: the image was that of men lining up with the tips of their toes touching some line. They might be on parade, or preparing to undertake some task, or in readiness for a race or fight.)
by Robert J. Saiget
Sun Oct 1, 12:04 AM ET
BEIJING (AFP) - The sacking of Shanghai's Communist Party chief has sent a warning to officials across China that orders from Beijing to rein in their local economies must be obeyed, analysts say.
Corruption and political intrigue have dominated the coverage of Chen Liangyu's fate after the central government linked him to the alleged misuse of up to 400 million dollars from Shanghai's 1.2-billion-dollar pension fund. (misuse of... 盗用...，是一种罪行，而在没有司法定罪的情况下，misuse 前面加上 alleged，体现了新闻工作的公正原则。)
Chen's dismissal last week was the highest-level sacking of a Chinese government official in more than a decade and many people have said it was also part of a campaign by President Hu Jintao to sweep aside political opponents.
But Joseph Cheng, a leading China watcher at the City University of Hong Kong, said the refusal by Shanghai officials to follow the central government's economic directives was perhaps an even more important factor.
"I tend to believe that Chen's sacking has less to do with corruption and more to do with insubordination," Cheng told AFP.
"When an important local party boss such as Chen does not toe the Beijing party line in an obvious manner, then the central party must respond or they will be seen to be weak and other provinces will say: 'If they can do it why can't I?'"
The central government, concerned about potential overheating with the economy steaming ahead at 10.9 percent in the first six months of the year, has made repeated calls on its provinces to pursue slower economic gowth.
Hu and Premier Wen Jiabao have also insisted they want more "balanced and harmonious" economic growth that does not expand the wealth divide. (wealth divide 贫富差异)
But the provinces and major cities -- less concerned about macro-issues and more focused on profits and jobs in their domain -- have proved stubborn in their commitment to pumping up their property markets and attracting investment.
In Shanghai's case, the financial hub recorded its 14th straight year of double-digit economic growth last year, expanding by 11.1 percent. (the financial hub，上海作为中国的金融中心)
This compared with 10.2 percent for the national economy.
Wang Yongqin, an economist at the Chinese Center for Economic Studies at Shanghai's Fudan University, also said President Hu likely had economic motives in mind when he moved against Chen.
"Chen was definitely at odds with the central government (on economic matters) and too obvious in his opposition," Wang told AFP.
Chen balked at central government edicts to cool the economy through measures such as curbing bank loans and fixed assets investment, Wang said. (balked at central government edicts 对中央的三令五申阳奉阴违)
Chen also ignored central government warnings of a property bubble in Shanghai and failed to create affordable housing in China's wealthiest city, he said.
Wang agreed that Chen may be being held as out an example for the rest of the nation.
"The central government has tried to use macro-controls to cool down the economy, but there are too many conflicts between the central and local governments," Wang said.
"The local governments want to promote growth. Chen is only one local leader, but they may be using him as a signal to other local leaders that if you don't follow central policy you will be sacked."
Guan Anping, a former government legal advisor who now works as a prominent Beijing lawyer, agreed that Chen had set himself up for a fall by disregarding Beijing's orders.
"Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao have been calling for balanced economic development, they do not want the kind of growth that has gone on for 20 years and allowed places like Shanghai and Guangdong to develop far faster than the rest of the country," Guan said.
"For a long time there has been talk that Chen Liangyu could not control the real estate and financial markets and that he was creating too many financial risks.
"Shanghai's growth has been phenomenal, but the growth has not been balanced, distribution of wealth has been unequal."
In what many see as no coincidence, Beijing followed through on the sacking of Chen by deploying top-level investigative teams this week across the country, including Shanghai, to probe the local property markets.
"Local governments should not defy orders given by the central government which aim to stabilize housing prices," Yun Xiaosu, a vice minister with the land and resources ministry, said Friday.