Qiao Shi

Qiao Shi
▪ 1995

      If the arrangements for political succession that senior leader Deng Xiaoping (Teng Hsiao-p'ing) had in place in 1994 came unstuck, 70-year-old Qiao Shi (Ch'iao Shih) would have a good shot at the top leadership position in China. Qiao Shi was number three in the Chinese political hierarchy, a member of the powerful Political Bureau Standing Committee, and chairman of the National People's Congress (NPC). He had used the latter post to enhance his domestic political standing and acquire needed foreign exposure.

      Born in Shanghai in 1924 as Jiang Zhitong (Chiang Chih-t'ung), he changed his name after joining the Communist Party of China (CPC) in 1940. A graduate of East China Associated University, Qiao Shi worked in the Shanghai CPC underground before 1949. He then spent several years in East China and the Northeast, working for a time at the Anshan Iron and Steel Co. His specialty was apparently security and intelligence. In 1963 Qiao Shi was transferred to the CPC headquarters in Beijing (Peking). For the next 20 years he worked in the International Liaison Department (ILD) of the Central Committee, becoming its head in 1982. Responsible for managing relations with other communist and revolutionary parties, the ILD was in the thick of the intrigues and polemics that characterized the era of the cold war between China and the Soviet Union.

      In 1982 Qiao Shi's career took off when he was elected to the Central Committee. He successively headed the party's General Office, Organization Department, Political and Legal Affairs Commission, and possibly the secret police and the People's Armed Police. Qiao Shi was elected to the Political Bureau in September 1985 and to its inner core, the Standing Committee, two years later. His most important post was that of secretary of the Central Discipline Inspection Commission in charge of attacking rampant corruption. In April 1986 Qiao Shi received his first government post as a deputy premier of the State Council. In 1992 he became chairman of the National People's Congress (China's nominal parliament) and, along with General Secretary Jiang Zemin (Chiang Tse-min) and Premier Li Peng (Li P'eng), one of the nation's ruling triumvirate.

      During Qiao Shi's tenure, the NPC slowly became a forum for limited debate on policy issues. By emphasizing the need to strengthen China's legal order, Qiao Shi enhanced the role of the NPC and obliquely called into question the political primacy of the CPC. For this reason, student democracy leader Wang Dan (Wang Tan) remarked, "Although Qiao Shi is a master of illusions, it's possible that he could lead China toward more enlightened rule." In 1993, as head of China's parliament, Qiao Shi toured Southeast Asia, and in 1994 he visited Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Argentina, and Brazil. If Jiang Zemin were to falter after Deng Xiaoping's death, Qiao Shi could become primus inter pares in a post-Deng collective leadership. (STEVEN I. LEVINE)

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Universalium. 2010.

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