Zhang Dejiang has a reputation as the sort of man that China’s leaders trust to take care of a crisis – and to do whatever it takes in the process.
He is rigid, tough, and unquestioning, say analysts who have watched his rise.
Mr. Zhang is unlikely to have broadened his mind much at university: He studied economics at Kim Il-sung Comprehensive University in Pyongyang, North Korea. But his Korean language skills got him a leadership post in Yanbian prefecture, along the border with North Korea, and his success in stemming the tide of illegal immigrants caught Beijing’s eye.
Zhang has been Communist Party secretary in three provinces, including Guangdong in 2003, when SARS broke out there. He tried to keep that epidemic a secret, as his bosses clearly expected him to do, but doing so made it worse. Even a year later he was still trying to clamp down on reports of what had happened: The editor and publisher of a local newspaper that had published a report on the events of 2003 were prosecuted for corruption.
Most recently, Zhang was dispatched to Chongqing to restore the party’s grip on the mega-city after the fall of its charismatic leader Bo Xilai, who had challenged the central party authorities and who is now awaiting trial, accused of a range of crimes from corruption to involvement in his wife’s murder of a British businessman.
Zhang is a safe pair of hands, in iron gloves.