Dec 27, 2013 03:54 PM

The Rise and Fall of a Local Official Obsessed with GDP Growth

(Beijing) – A November 27 statement by the Communist Party's anti-corruption watchdog confirmed that the deputy governor of Hubei Province, Guo Youming, was being investigated for graft.

Three days later, Guo was removed from his post, becoming the 13th official with the rank of deputy minister or higher to fall from grace over corruption since the party's 18th National Congress in November 2012.

Guo, 57, is a native of the central province of Hubei and has spent much of his career in the water industry. In 2000, Guo, then vice director of the Hubei water bureau, was named deputy party secretary of Yichang. He was later promoted to Yichang mayor and the city's party general secretary. Since August 2011, Guo had been the deputy governor of Hubei, overseeing the province's land, agriculture, forestry and water management. He is also in charge of works related to poverty relief, the Three Gorges Dam and the country's major water transportation projects.

Several sources say Guo's corruption was uncovered during a nationwide inspection launched by the party's anti-corruption watchdog, the Central Discipline Inspection Commission. An entrepreneur in Yichang said the inspection team arrived at the city in June and visited dozens of companies.

An official at the Hubei anti-corruption bureau said Guo's violations mainly occurred during his tenure in Yichang between 2000 and 2012. During that decade, Guo was known for his support in attracting outside investment and calls for aggressive economic growth. From 2008, when Guo became Yichang's party boss, to 2011, the city's GDP rose from 104 billion yuan to 214 billion yuan. The rapid growth attracted nationwide attention.

One of the most important projects supported by Guo was a 20 billion yuan investment in the Three Gorges Quantong Coated and Galvanized Plate Co., which opened in late 2008. Starting in mid-2011, the company has faced big debts and suspended production.

Climbing the Ladder

Guo graduated from college in 1982, and joined officialdom in 1993 by becoming human resources director of the Hubei water bureau.

An expert at the Hubei Academy of Environmental Science said the position was a springboard for Guo. At that time, he was believed to be one of the most promising young officials in the province.

Three years later, the 39-year-old Guo was appointed deputy director of the provincial water bureau. Later, he became Yichang's deputy party chief.

Yichang carries a special weight in Hubei because two major water projects are in its territory: the Gezhou Dam and the Three Gorges Dam. Over the past two decades, Yichang has grown from a small town to a major city.

In 2004, Yichang's GDP hit 54 billion yuan, which trailed only the province capital, Wuhan.

In 2008, in the face of a slowdown linked to the Global Financial Crisis and the completion of the Three Gorges Dam, Guo pushed forward a number of major industrial and infrastructure projects, attracting investors in a bid to maintain the city's growth.

During the first half of 2009, city officials traveled the country aiming to promote the city and invite investors. Tens of billions of yuan in agreements were signed, the biggest being the Quantong galvanized plate project, which started out as an 11 billion yuan deal.

In 2010, Guo said the city should have GDP of 400 billion yuan by 2016, emphasizing chemical, equipment manufacturing, electricity, food and medicine industries.

Guo's economic success led to a promotion to the provincial level. In August 2011, he was promoted to deputy governor of Hubei and in July the next year he left Yichang.

His successor soon ran into trouble. Quantong, once the pride of Yichang, faced a crisis.

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