According to Caixin, Jiao Li (焦利), who was the head of CCTV until November last year, and was appointed as Vice-Chairman of the General Administration of Press and Publications, has been removed from his position. Jiao seems to have been the latest victim of the Bo Xilai fallout. Both men started their careers in Liaoning Province. Jiao worked his way through the ranks of the Liaoning Daily, becoming editor-in-chief and chair of its Party Committee. In 1997, he became a member of the Liaoning provincial propaganda department and joined the Central Propaganda Department in 2008. In May 2009, he was appointed as CCTV director. Here, he suspended a news anchor on request of Bo Xilai. However, he was removed from his position after only two and a half years in office, prompting suspicions that Jiao had ruffled feathers in his handling of news items. He also made himself unpopular among staff through the appointments and dismissals he made. Furthermore, Jiao’s private life came under scrutiny. He allegedly had a relationship with Tang Can, a singer who, according to rumours, has been secretly sentenced to 15 years in July after being involved in numerous high-level scandals, and was closely acquainted with Bo Xilai. Officially, he was transferred to a vice-director position in the General Administration of Press and Publications, but has not been seen in public events since. Now, it seems that he has been removed from all State posts and expelled from the Party.
This calls into question his relationship with Li Changchun, a fellow Liaoninger, number 5 in the Standing Committee and propaganda chief, and Liu Yunshan, director of the Central Propaganda department and Standing Committee hopeful at the 18th Party Committee. Rumours indicate that although Li distanced himself from Jiao as scandal started to broaden, Liu tried to protect Jiao, on whose assistance he relied in the CPD.
Unfortunately, in this case, most we have to go on are reports by partisan overseas Chinese media, which may not necessarily reliable. However, let’s assume, for the sake of the argument, that they are true. This might have interesting consequences for the relationship between the propaganda apparat and the Standing Committee. Propaganda is, together with discipline inspection and personnel appointments, one of the three large supporting pillars of the Party, and the head of the propaganda apparat has been a Standing Committee member since 1989, when the structure was overhauled. There has been an increasing emphasis on media and culture in recent years but until now, the institutions in those fields have generally been staffed by the conservative side of the Party. It is not unimaginable to think that in the raging political crisis, control over propaganda, and therefore the tools of public opinion guidance, has been one of the major points of conflict for the next round of appointments. Also, political battles in China often are fought through underlings. For example, Chen Liangyu’s dismissal in 2003 signalled Hu Jintao’s consolidation of power over the Shanghai faction, while the dismissal of his right hand man Ling Jihua was considered to be a great weakening of his power. It seems inconceivable that Jiao’s dismissal, especially at this time, has nothing to do with Liu Yunshan’s Standing Committee aspirations. However, there are different options. Liu might now be out of the running for one of the spots, but it might also be the case that Jiao’s dismissal is part of a compromise in which Liu will succeed Li Changchun, but will be beholden to other factions in the Party. One more story on the rumour mill, one more reason to watch the line-up, somewhere by this time next month.