WA China Watch Digest Special!

News: Huang Qifan, long-time mayor of Chongqing, just resigned

Huang Qifan. Source: e-faxin.By Wen Liu   Jan. 2, 2017

When people in Seattle were getting ready to welcome in the new year 2017, something major was happening in their sister city Chongqing. At the last session of 2016 of the Chongqing Municipal People’s Congress Standing Committee on Dec. 30th, according to People’s Daily report, Mayor Huang Qifan (黄奇帆) offered to resign, and his resignation was accepted. No reason was given.

Having served Chongqing for 15 years, Huang Qifan, at 64, was mayor from 2010 and deputy mayor from 2001. Before that, Huang was deputy secretary general of Shanghai.

With his first name Qifan meaning “rare sail,” Huang has really had a rare and successful sail of a career in Chongqing. With the reputation as the “finance geek,” “economic wizard,” and “CEO of Chongqing,” Huang led the city to three consecutive years, 2013-2015, of top GDP growth among provinces in China. What was as rare, if not more, was the fact that Huang survived the downfall of Bo Xilai, the imprisoned one-time political star and Party chief of Chongqing from 2007 to 2012, earning Huang also the reputation as a “political tumbler.” Huang once described his working relationship with Bo as “fish and water” and of “same mind and breath.”

In 2012, the 30th anniversary of the sister city relationship between Seattle and Chongqing, former Mayor Michael McGinn visited Chongqing with a delegation and attended the Seattle Week event there, featuring education, green building and garden exchanges. During their meeting, Mayor Huang Qifan said that Seattle and Chongqing had a lot in common, both as the leading city in development and manufacturing in each country’s west. McGinn said that Seattle hoped to deepen cooperation with Chongqing in economy, culture, education and other areas.

Huang Qifan, Mike McGinn, 2012. Source: govinfo.cnAs part of President Xi Jinping’s official delegation visiting Seattle in September 2015, Huang Qifan, himself now a political star, together with five governors from China, attended the U.S.-China Governors Forum here. Huang spoke at the event, telling the audience about what his city had done in environment and in U.S.-China economic cooperation. As many as 500 American companies are reportedly operating in Chongqing.

Rumor a year ago was that Huang was headed for the State Council to become China’s finance tsar and work along Premier Li Keqiang. That didn't happen. Now, a year later, it is again rumored that Huang, with his strength in financial and economic work, might join the Financial and Economic Committee of the National People’s Congress. But that, in other theories, would be like “retreating” to second line or semi-retirement.

In any ways, it was reported that Huang Qifan shed tears while presenting and speaking of his resignation at the Dec. 30th meeting. Also announced at the gathering was that Zhang Guoqing, Chongqing’s deputy Party chief, would serve as Acting Mayor.

In the meantime, Seattleites, especially those involved in sister-city relations with Chongqing, may have their own understanding and stories of this “rare sail” mayor.

(For more information about Seattle-Chongqing sister city relationship, go to WA China Sister Cities. For more information on major events in Washington state-China relations, go to WA China Chronicle.)