Wang also made significant concessions to end the two-week-long uprising in Wukan village, including an agreement that freezes the disputed land deals, releases jailed villagers from custody and reportedly sacks some local officials.
The uprising in Wukan, along with recent labor strikes and a protest in a coastal town called Haimen, is seen by some as a challenge to the Guangdong model at a time when Bo Xilai, the party chief in Chongqing and a rival to Wang, has been critical of the “liberal approach.”
For months, Wang and Bo have been engaged in a rare public debate over whose methods and models are best for China. With its atmosphere of relative openness, including the country’s first publicly available provincial budget, Guangdong has been hailed by some as a template for others.
For his part, Bo has championed an approach that emphasizes efforts to reverse income inequality. “Some people in China have indeed become rich first, so we must seek the realization of common prosperity,” Bo was quoted as saying in July. A week later, Wang said in Guangdong that “division of the cake is not a priority right now. The priority is to make the cake bigger.”
Of the nine current standing committee members, only Vice President Xi Jinping and Deputy Premier Li Keqiang are expected to retain their seats, with Xi becoming party general secretary and later president of China, while all the other top positions remain at least publicly still unsettled. Along with Wang, Bo is seen as a serious candidate for one of the seven remaining positions.
An unusual public rivalry
The rivalry has spilled into other areas. Wang had previously served as party chief in Chongqing, and when Bo took over the job, he immediately launched a crackdown on organized crime and the mafia, or triad gangs, which some analysts took as a slap at his predecessor.
Also, although Wang has experimented with allowing a relatively open news media and reforms, Bo has shifted to a “new left” stance, encouraging a “Red Culture” campaign that includes the singing of Communist “red songs” and operas, launching a “Red Twitter” microblogging site to promote Mao-era slogans, and ordering Chongqing’s television stations to broadcast patriotically themed programs. Wang replied by saying people’s’ everyday problems could not be solved through political campaigns.