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Web-only Exclusives
November 30, 2000

From Our Correspondent: Hirohito and the War
A conversation with biographer Herbert Bix

From Our Correspondent: A Rough Road Ahead
Bad news for the Philippines - and some others

From Our Correspondent: Making Enemies
Indonesia needs friends. So why is it picking fights?

Asiaweek Time Asia Now Asiaweek story

FEBRUARY 11, 2000 VOL. 26 NO. 5

The Great Survivor
Why Li Peng has ridden out many crises



Photo Illustration by Emilio Rivera III

He is the great survivor of Chinese politics. Only five months after entering the Politburo in November 1987, Li Peng was made premier. He served two five-year terms, surviving the traumatic Tiananmen crackdown of 1989, in which he was a key player. In 1998, he succeeded Qiao Shi as chairman of the National People's Congress (NPC). Li, an adopted son of the late premier Zhou Enlai, still ranks second only to Jiang Zemin within the Communist Party - with Premier Zhu Rongji No. 3.

    SPECIAL REPORT
China: Court Intrigue
Jiang Zemin wants another term as No. 1 leader. Some top mandarins oppose the idea. Who will prevail?

The Great Survivor
Why Li Peng has ridden out many crises

A Two-Way Siege
Falungong struggles after being banned -- but still scares Beijing

Cover: Change Is in the Air
The Internet education of Raymond Kwok
Extended online interview
Why property mogul Raymond Kwok is eyeing the Internet
Spreading the Risk
It's either bricks to clicks or the deep six

Selling with Style
How Japan's Egoist fashion outlets popped to the top in the retailing business

Investing
Already at record highs, Singaporean stocks may still surge

Viewpoint
Until Gus Dur reforms immigration, battle the Indonesian system

South Korea: Revolt of the Citizens
A blacklisting campaign shocks lawmakers

Pakistan: Of Rhetoric and Reality
Why Pakistan is not declared a terrorist state

India: 'Pakistan Unpredictable'
But India can hold its ground, says Fernandes

Indonesia: Washington on Wahid
America's top man on East Asia applauds Indonesia's president

Thailand: The Enemy on the Border
More than anyone else, it's Myanmar United Wa State Army that threatens Thailand's security

  RELATED STORIES
Jiang Cracks the Whip
Is he targeting graft -- or his political foes?

Intelligence: The Coming Corruption Storm
A scandal is brewing at the highest levels

TIME
Fall of an Empire
A high-level smuggling scandal lays bare the corruption that is plaguing the People's Republic

Ms. Clean
The woman behind the anti-graft drive

Politically, Li, 71, is the standard-bearer of the party's conservative wing. He does not oppose reform or China's opening to the world, but advocates a slower, more cautious pace. A Russian-trained technocrat, he loves old-style big projects, such as the vast Three Gorges Dam on the Yangzi River, with which he is closely identified. Li is vilified abroad as the "butcher of Tiananmen" for his role in 1989. Many Chinese loathe him for the same reason, and for a perceived personal coldness. Still, his years at the helm of the state machinery and the many people he placed in key positions give him enormous influence.

The most powerful and able among Li's allies is Luo Gan, 64. Like his mentor, Luo is an engineer by training. He did stints as party chief of Henan province and minister of labor. In 1993, Li Peng brought him to Beijing as secretary general of the State Council, or central government. Luo worked a decade directly under Li, who managed to elevate his protégé into the Politburo in 1998. As head of the party's politics and law committee, Luo oversees two activities dear to the hierarchy: the crackdown against the Falungong sect (story page 23) and the annual "strike-hard" campaign against crime.

Another prominent Li protégé, Jia Chunwang, is on shakier ground. Jia is Li's man in the security services, always a key portfolio in Beijing. Jia survived the tumultuous 1980s, but the involvement of his State Security Ministry in corruption has tarnished his coattails. That he remains in office, though moved sideways to Public Security, underscores Li Peng's clout.

Less lucky has been another Li ally, Cheng Kejie, a former governor of southwestern Guangxi region. He was arrested in mid-December for allegedly accepting bribes and other crimes. Li apparently was unable to protect him. Cheng's prosecution was vigorously backed by both Premier Zhu and the party's chief corruption fighter, Wei Jianxing.

Indeed, Li Peng is on the defensive these days, as scandals lap at his doorstep. One of his sons is rumored to be involved in the Guangxi mess, and charges are emerging about mishandling of resettlement funds relating to the Three Gorges Dam. Still, no one is predicting that the great survivor will be forced to step down before his term expires in early 2003. But his enemies may want to persuade him not to try for another.n

By Todd Crowell and David Hsieh/Beijing

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