Being mayor of Beijing does not necessarily mean a shortcut to the top of Chinese power. Chen Xitong, mayor of the capital between 1983 and 1993, knew a little about this.
Chen, who was leader of the “Beijing clique,” branded the movement that took over Tiananmen Square in 1989 as “counterrevolutionary,” which triggered the military intervention. (At least he expressed his regrets later.) He ended up in the clutches of zealous anti-corruption officials, probably led by his bitter enemy Jiang Zemin. Or so the rumors said. He was sentenced to 16 years in prison and died in June 2013. The Chinese leadership, liturgical to a breaking point, announced his death on the anniversary of the events in Tiananmen.
Chen’s case should not worry Cai Qi too much. Since November, Cai has been the mayor of Beijing. In fact, Chen was quite unpopular with the powers of the time, while Cai, on the contrary, is recognized as a great ally of the current No. 1 of the Chinese Communist Party (among other institutions), Xi Jinping. In fact, it seems that his rise to the role of first citizen of a city as complex as Beijing was the result of his tight alliance with Xi. That’s how China works: Officials who have made a career together often see their destinies linked.
And right now being on Xi’s bandwagon, or the “party within the party,” could be a guarantee to join the circle of the most powerful men in China: that is, the Central Office of the Politburo of the Communist Party. This year, probably in November, Congress will have to pick the five, or seven, names that will join President Xi and Prime Minister Li Keqiang in the next five years.