Wang, 57, the Communist Party boss of southeastern Guangdong province, gained international recognition last fall after he ordered a new village election in Wukan, a village where residents had clashed with local authorities over corruption and land grabs. That peaceful resolution suggested a softer approach to dissent. Wang was seen as a rival of Bo Xilai before Bo’s spectacular fall from grace this year. While Bo had promoted a “Chongqing model” of development that focused on social safety nets and growth led by state-owned enterprises, Wang was linked with a “Guangdong model” that focused on high growth rates and private enterprise.
While Bo and Wang differ greatly on economic visions, they both sought to burnish their public images and promote their competing visions. Their efforts were a departure from the mold of post-Mao China, where colorless bureaucrats worked their way up the party ranks. During the recent party congress, Wang attempted to downplay his reputation, saying that all Chinese officials were reformers. But his reputation was too strong. “Hu Jintao probably saw him as too reformist. Also he tried to toot his own horn,” says David Zweig, an expert on Chinese politics at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. “My sense was that he was way too liberal.”
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