BEIJING -- Chinese President Xi Jinping is going to the media to campaign against a Chinese tradition in which retired senior government officials insinuate themselves into political decision-making.
The campaign is meant to minimize the influence of Chinese Communist Party elders, including former President Jiang Zemin.
On Monday, the People's Daily, a party mouthpiece, published a column that says once an official leaves office, he or she should also let go of the office's power. The piece makes the point by quoting a Chinese maxim that says tea cools down as soon as a guest is gone.
The critique goes further, saying leaders have made a habit of giving key government positions to their cronies, only to pull their strings after they, the leaders, retire.
The column also points out that many leaders have been honorable enough to make way for new blood and by doing so have won the respect of the people by not interfering in politics during their retirement years.
The editorial is also critical of today's elders, saying they have pressured current leaders and that by doing so are undermining the party's solidarity.
Furthermore, there was a message in that the piece was published right after the annual gathering of party elders and current Politburo Standing Committee members at the seaside resort of Beidaihe, Hebei Province.
The Beidaihe meeting is an annual event where yesterday's leaders can sit down with today's leaders and informally discuss pressing issues.
On Aug. 5, the Economy & Nation Weekly reported that the unofficial annual conference apparently did not carry as much significance as in previous years. The implication? That it is no longer necessary to value the opinions of retired officials.
Moreover, the newsmagazine, published by the state-owned Xinhua News Agency, wondered whether the Beidaihe meeting is even needed? It supplied its own answer: No. Important issues are settled at Politburo meetings, like the two that were held in July.
These critical pieces are believed to be targeting Jiang, who kept the chair of the Central Military Commission to himself for roughly two years after handing over the nation's presidency to Hu Jintao.
And Jiang reportedly continued to flex his muscle through minions like Zhou Yongkang, a former member of the Politburo Standing Committee, Guo Boxiong and Xu Caihou, former vice chairmen of the Central Military Commission.
Xi seems to have his mind set on undoing this network of old cronies before the 19th CCP congress, still two years away, by charging many of them with corruption and stripping them of their party affiliation. All seven Standing Committee members except Xi and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, are to step down at the congress, having passed their retirement age.
Standing Committee members are the country's supreme leaders.
It is expected that among the new members to be appointed at the next congress will be a candidate to succeed Xi -- at least if everything follows custom.
Some party insiders, meanwhile, say former President Hu is on friendlier terms with Xi than is Jiang. Hu stepped down as president as well as chairman of the Central Military Commission and entered complete retirement when Xi took over the presidency from him. Many political watchers support this view. They point out that Chen Shiju, a deputy director of the CCP Central Committee's General Office and a former aide to Hu, still maintains a critical position within the current government. This, they argue, suggests that Hu and Xi are on relatively friendly terms.
One concern for Hu, however, is how Xi treats current and former members of the Communist Youth League of China, including Hu himself.
It would make a lot of sense for Xi to keep some of these people around to keep senior officials of the CCP and local governments in check. But perhaps not. On July 20, Ling Jihua, another former aide to Hu, was stripped of his party membership.