Finance Minister “Retires”: First of Many?

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China’s Finanace Minister Jin Renqing has stepped down. This is interesting as any move that’s even slightly anomalous in the top ranks of the government always attracts attention. Mr. Jin’s sudden departure (which Chinese officals steadfastly refuse to confirm) definitely seems to fall firmly into that category: the Reuter’s story notes that he gave no indication he might leave and also reported that he will be going to a senior position in a government think tank. The more freewheeling South China Morning Post on the other hand says his departure is due to a “sex scandal” that involved several other senior figures. Pace to the SCMP but I’m still skeptical that such a senior figure would get the boot for keeping an 二奶 or mistress, the practice of which is commonplace. Something involving corruption was the word last week and the lady at the center of the case is supposed to have used her contacts to advance her business interests. Still, for someone as senior as Mr. Jin, he clearly didn’t have the right connections to protect himself from what seems to have been a fairly minor infraction. As always with politics, too, his timing was bad: if you are going to get into trouble in China, doing it around the time of the Party Congress when political horsetrading (in which you often have to sacrifice one of yours for one of theirs) is at its height. For Chinese political junkies there’s the consolation of knowing that Jin’s case will doubtless be the first of many changes to come in the next few months.