China's Vice Premier dies


Summary

Xinhua news agency said only that Huang had died in Beijing of an "illness," but widespread reports had earlier said he was suffering from pancreatic cancer.

Mr Huang, who served as Shanghai's top official before assuming a key role at the national level, was a protege of former Chinese president Jiang Zemin, his onetime boss in the booming eastern metropolis.

'An excellent member of the Chinese Communist Party'

Mr Huang was placed in charge of economic policy matters when he rose to the elite Standing Committee of the Politburo — China's highest decision-making body — in 2002.

His death comes ahead of a key five-yearly Communist Party congress later this year, at which President Hu Jintao is expected to stack the Politburo with his own political protégés.

An obituary issued by the central authorities called Huang "an excellent member of the CPC (Communist Party), a long-tested and faithful Communist fighter and an outstanding leader of the party and the state," Xinhua said.

Huang's illness

Although the health of China's leaders has long been a state secret, the government announced in March last year that Mr Huang was ill and would not attend all official functions.

The government has never confirmed who took over Huang's job of managing China's booming economy following his retreat from everyday public life.

His last public appearance was at the National People's Congress in March when he urged delegates from Shanghai to fall in behind Hu's anti-corruption drive that has seen the sacking of Huang protege Chen Liangyu.

Mr Chen, Mr Huang's successor as the top party boss in Shanghai, was the highest Communist Party official to be sacked for corruption in China in more than a decade.

When rumours swirled of Huang's death last month, commentators said it would likely have little effect on the communist power structure.

"I do not believe that there will be much of an impact," Joseph Cheng, a noted China political watcher at City University of Hong Kong, said at the time.

"His health has been in decline and it was generally expected that he would retire from the Standing Committee of the Politburo at the coming party congress."

Mr Hu would likely seek to replace Huang with a neutral candidate who would neither be loyal to Jiang's "Shanghai clique," nor to Hu's political faction, which has largely come from the ruling party's China Youth League.

"There are of course a number of candidates," Mr Cheng noted.

"It appears that at this stage at the Standing Committee of the Politburo level there are attempts to maintain some kind of balances of power."

The standing committee's current line-up is largely made up of people loyal to former president Jiang.

The next standing committee, to be unveiled at the party congress, is expected to usher in China's next top leader, who will be appointed as party head and likely president after Hu finishes his second term in 2012, Mr Cheng said.

Such a political candidate could be named a vice premier during the coming shakeup.

Huang's political career

Mr Huang was born in Jiashan city in China's eastern Zhejiang province in September 1938 and joined the ruling Communist Party in March 1966.

He graduated with a degree in engineering from the prestigious Tsinghua University before launching a career in the machine manufacturing industry in Shanghai, where he soon began his political career.

He served as Shanghai's mayor from 1991 to 1995, before being appointed as top Communist Party official of the eastern metropolis, which enjoys a higher ranking than mayor.


Xinhua news agency said only that Huang had died in Beijing of an "illness," but widespread reports had earlier said he was suffering from pancreatic cancer.

Mr Huang, who served as Shanghai's top official before assuming a key role at the national level, was a protege of former Chinese president Jiang Zemin, his onetime boss in the booming eastern metropolis.

'An excellent member of the Chinese Communist Party'

Mr Huang was placed in charge of economic policy matters when he rose to the elite Standing Committee of the Politburo — China's highest decision-making body — in 2002.

His death comes ahead of a key five-yearly Communist Party congress later this year, at which President Hu Jintao is expected to stack the Politburo with his own political protégés.

An obituary issued by the central authorities called Huang "an excellent member of the CPC (Communist Party), a long-tested and faithful Communist fighter and an outstanding leader of the party and the state," Xinhua said.

Huang's illness

Although the health of China's leaders has long been a state secret, the government announced in March last year that Mr Huang was ill and would not attend all official functions.

The government has never confirmed who took over Huang's job of managing China's booming economy following his retreat from everyday public life.

His last public appearance was at the National People's Congress in March when he urged delegates from Shanghai to fall in behind Hu's anti-corruption drive that has seen the sacking of Huang protege Chen Liangyu.

Mr Chen, Mr Huang's successor as the top party boss in Shanghai, was the highest Communist Party official to be sacked for corruption in China in more than a decade.

When rumours swirled of Huang's death last month, commentators said it would likely have little effect on the communist power structure.

"I do not believe that there will be much of an impact," Joseph Cheng, a noted China political watcher at City University of Hong Kong, said at the time.

"His health has been in decline and it was generally expected that he would retire from the Standing Committee of the Politburo at the coming party congress."

Mr Hu would likely seek to replace Huang with a neutral candidate who would neither be loyal to Jiang's "Shanghai clique," nor to Hu's political faction, which has largely come from the ruling party's China Youth League.

"There are of course a number of candidates," Mr Cheng noted.

"It appears that at this stage at the Standing Committee of the Politburo level there are attempts to maintain some kind of balances of power."

The standing committee's current line-up is largely made up of people loyal to former president Jiang.

The next standing committee, to be unveiled at the party congress, is expected to usher in China's next top leader, who will be appointed as party head and likely president after Hu finishes his second term in 2012, Mr Cheng said.

Such a political candidate could be named a vice premier during the coming shakeup.

Huang's political career

Mr Huang was born in Jiashan city in China's eastern Zhejiang province in September 1938 and joined the ruling Communist Party in March 1966.

He graduated with a degree in engineering from the prestigious Tsinghua University before launching a career in the machine manufacturing industry in Shanghai, where he soon began his political career.

He served as Shanghai's mayor from 1991 to 1995, before being appointed as top Communist Party official of the eastern metropolis, which enjoys a higher ranking than mayor.