105-Year-Old Song Ping Tells Xi: Follow Deng's 'Reform And Opening' Pitch
Song Ping was too young in the 1980s to have been counted among the “immortals”—a jocular term used at the time to describe Communist Party veterans who were playing a big role in politics despite having retired. Perhaps he deserves the title now, The Economist reported.
Photo Insert: Some tried to portray Song's words as a rebuke to China’s leader, Xi Jinping, who had been described as a “clown” by Chinese billionaires, two of whom had been imprisoned, and who is not known to be adept at pushing better income distribution.
At 105 years old, he is still going strong, making him the doyen of the 20 or so former members of the Politburo Standing Committee—the apex of party power—who are still alive. Those fit enough are expected to appear at a five-yearly party congress that starts on October 16. How much do such elders matter today?
Like his fellow retired grandees, Song seldom speaks in public. So when video footage of him addressing a charitable foundation emerged online in September, it caused a stir on Chinese social media and overseas Chinese news sites.
Some tried to portray it as a rebuke to China’s leader, Xi Jinping, who had been described as a “clown” by Chinese billionaires, two of whom had been imprisoned, and who is not known to be adept at pushing better income distribution.
They quoted Song saying that the only path forward was “reform and opening”—bywords for the economic liberalization launched by Deng Xiaoping in 1979, which has regressed under Xi. That is probably wishful thinking.
The footage provides no evidence that Song uttered those words. Even if he did, Xi has used the same phrase. Song is known as a staunch conservative but has not championed term extensions, with Deng limiting presidents to just two 5-year terms. Xi did away with that by pressuring the party leadership to give him another term.