Shanghai set to endorse Gong Zheng as its new mayor

William Zheng

Beijing has promoted Gong Zheng to a senior Communist Party position in Shanghai, paving the way for him to be named as the financial centre’s new mayor.

“With the approval of the Communist Party’s Central Committee, comrade Gong Zheng has been named both a member of the Shanghai Communist Party Committee and the Standing Committee as well as a deputy secretary,” the Shanghai city government said on WeChat on Thursday.

The public endorsement means Gong – who was previously governor of the east China province of Shandong – should be announced as mayor of Shanghai by the local people’s congress soon.

He will replace Ying Yong, who was appointed party boss of Hubei last month following a leadership reshuffle in the central China province sparked by a public outcry over the poor handling of the coronavirus outbreak, which is now a global health crisis that has killed more than 8,800 people around the world.

In the same reshuffle, Wang Zhonglin – one of Gong’s former colleagues and then party chief of Jinan, Shandong’s provincial capital – was named party secretary of Wuhan, the capital of Hubei.

A native of Jiangsu province, Gong, 60, has a PhD in economics and spent more than 20 years working for China’s customs agency, rising to deputy chief of the General Administration of Customs in 2003.

In 2008, he was made a vice-governor of east China’s Zhejiang province, and five years later was given the top party job in the provincial capital Hangzhou. He was named governor of Shandong in 2017.

A Hangzhou official described Gong as an “open-minded” leader who could speak English reasonably well.

“In a meeting to discuss urban renewal, Gong said in English that rezoning land from the public for redevelopment was like ‘mission impossible’,” the person said.

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At the 2014 Hangzhou International Business Conference, Gong vowed to build the city into a haven for investors.

“[We should] say ‘yes’ more and ‘no’ less to investors and businessmen, and help resolve their problems,” he said at the time.

The official said Gong also played a key role in getting Hangzhou designated as an online free-trade zone in 2015.

“Ningbo and Hangzhou were both vying for the status,” he said. “Hangzhou won mainly because of Gong’s solid customs experience and good connections in Beijing.”

Gong is also known for promoting the “Project No 1” initiative in Hangzhou, which aims to bolster the city’s reputation as a hub for information technology and smart economic development.

“There must not be only one Alibaba in Hangzhou, not just one Jack Ma,” he said at a forum in 2014, referring to the Chinese technology giant Alibaba Group – which also owns the South China Morning Post – and its founder.

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