Leisure, back room politics await retiring Chinese



Beijing: With a new set of Chinese leaders set to be unveiled on November 14 at the once-in-a-decade leadership Congress of the ruling CPC, it is not yet clear what the current high-profile leaders will do after retirement.

Keeping up with Party discipline after the death of its founder - Mao Zedong - Chinese Communist Party (CPC) leaders at top level have been retiring after a 10-year stint at the helm. The Party, earlier, abolished life-long tenures.

While many top leaders earlier, after the transition, faded into oblivion enjoying the rich post retirement privileges, others like for instance ex-President Jiang Zemin remained key players heading factions of their and influencing the course of the party wielding influence over their proteges.

While some refrain from interfering politics and seek more time to pursue personal interests, others continue to dabble in behind the scene politics.

Some travel around the country to relax, write books and learn the arts, according to a report by Southern Weekend, a weekly newspaper Guangzhou, Capital of South China's Guangdong province.

Jiang, 86, never a man to shy away from publicity remained an exception and even played significant role in the selection of a new set of leaders to succeed President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao.

Even after retirement as President, he remained Chairman of the powerful Military Commission for two years, while his successor Hu remained Vice Chairman.

Speculation is rife that Hu, 69, is going to do the same remaining Chairman of the Commission which will give him the control over 2.3 million strong powerful People's Liberation Army (PLA).

The new President to be, Xi Jinping, 59, a princeling and former Secretary of Shanghai Party unit, the home turf of Jiang was regarded as his protege, while Li Keqiang, 57, is regarded as the follower of Hu.

After his retirement Jiang returned to Shanghai, where he served as a mayor in 1985 and toured the country.

He had visited the Bailin Temple, a Zen Buddhist temple in Hebei province that has a history of more than 1,700 years and vowed to visit at least one religious venue every year.

He is also well known for his appreciation of Western opera.

On June 6, 2010, he watched La Traviata in the capital with Beijing party chief Liu Qi and former vice- premier Li Lanqing, dismissing rumours that he was suffering from ill health. Li, now 80, sought an ordinary life after quitting politics in 2002.

A report in March by a Guangxi government news portal said Li tried to bargain over the price of his groceries for Lunar New Year, and applied for a job in a small restaurant, but the owner had identified him.

Like Jiang, the former vice-premier spends most of his time on the arts.

He learnt signet engraving at 71, and gave a sample of his work to South Korean President Lee Myung-bak.

Li also spent eight years compiling a book that introduces the history of European music and the lives of 50 European classical musicians, according to the write up.

Former premier Li Peng, 84, who stepped down in 2003, has written several books detailing his thoughts on various topics, including the controversial Three Gorges Dam Project and his role as a top lawmaker.

He thrust himself into the public eye last month, though, by donating 3 million yuan proceeds from his books, to a scholarship for poor university students in Yanan, Shaanxi.

Li's successor, Zhu Rongji, who once said he was one of the busiest people in China when he was in office, has firmly avoided meeting officials after stepping down in 2003.

"I have a rich post-retirement life," he said.

"I love Peking opera. I can both sing and play Beijing fiddle. Through learning from good teachers and practicing hard, my Beijing fiddle skills are much better."

Zhu has been interested in Peking opera and the fiddle since he was young, influenced by his uncle and teachers.

Since retiring, he frequently practices the instrument with his wife, Lao An and also wrote a book.

Hu, Wen and host of leaders would be retiring later this year and new set of leaders expected to take over power early next year.

PTI