Profiles: China’s new leaders

A prominent reformer and a top female politician were excluded from seven-member politburo standing committee.

China’s leadership transition has formally concluded, with the new politburo standing committee – the country’s most powerful body – revealed on Thursday, November 15.

The committee heading the Communist Party of China, which had nine members under Hu Jintao, has been cut to seven. 

Speaking to Al Jazeera, Joseph Cheng, a professor at the City University of Hong Kong, described the new leadership as “a rather conservative line-up”.

“We do not expect serious significant departures from existing policy programmes,” Cheng said. But he added that the among the all-male leadership team, “there is a strong consensus on what needs to be done concerning economic reforms”.

Cheng also pointed out that, in his first statement as leader of the Communist Party, Xi “was honest enough to admit that there are serious problems [in China], including corruption”. 

Xi Jinping

China’s Vice president Xi Jinping emerges as the head of the newly reshuffled seven member politburo [AFP]

The son of a revered communist revolutionary, 59-year-old Xi is the new general secretary of the party.

He is said to have been backed by former president Jiang Zemin, who remains influential today, but is widely considered a consensus figure in China’s factional politics.

Xi is expected to become national president in March.

He has served as the top leader in Shanghai and the coastal provinces of Fujian and Zhejiang, all of them economically successful.

His wife Peng Liyuan is a famous singer who holds the rank of army general, while their daughter studies at Harvard University.

Li Keqiangi
Chinese Vice Premier Li Keqiang emerges in the number two spot of the party’s powerful politburo [AFP]

A bureaucrat with an unusually easy smile for China’s colourless Communist officials, Li moves up in the party hierarchy and is due to be named prime minister in March, tasked with running the world’s second-largest economy.

Vice Premier Li has held top posts in Henan and Liaoning provinces and was promoted to the Standing Committee in 2007.

The 57-year-old has long been linked to outgoing President Hu Jintao, speaks English and has a law degree from Peking University.

Hu initially wanted Li to succeed him as party chief
before accepting Xi, according to reports.

Zhang Dejiang
Zhang Dejiang has been party boss of the economically booming provinces of Zhejiang and Guangdong [Reuters]

Born in November 1946, Zhang was installed as party secretary of the mega-city of Chongqing in February to replace disgraced Bo Xilai, whose fall amid scandal added to the usual factional uncertainty ahead of this year’s reshuffle.

An economics graduate of Kim Il-Sung University in North Korea, Zhang has been vice premier in charge of energy, telecommunications and transportation since 2008.

Believed to be a protege of Jiang Zemin – a party leader between 1989 and 2002 – he has been party boss of the economically booming provinces of Zhejiang and Guangdong.

Yu Zhengsheng

Yu Zhengsheng studied at the Harbin Military Engineering Institute, graduating as a missile engineer [Reuters]

Yu has been party secretary of Shanghai since 2007, when he replaced the promoted Xi Jinping.

A previous party secretary of Hubei province, 67-year-old Yu studied at the Harbin Military Engineering Institute, graduating as a missile engineer. 

The son of Yu Qiwei, a party elder better known as Huang Jing, Yu is considered a Communist “princeling”.

He reportedly enjoyed good ties with Deng Xiaoping – the respected late architect of China’s economic resurrection three decades ago – and is friends with Deng’s son, Deng Pufang.

Liu Yunshan

As head of the party’s propaganda, 65-year-old Liu Yunshan has tightened controls over domestic media [Reuters]

Liu has been the party propaganda chief since 2002.

As head of the party’s propaganda, 65-year-old Liu has tightened controls over domestic media, even as he encouraged big state media to expand overseas to push the government’s line on issues of the day.

A former reporter for state news agency Xinhua in Inner Mongolia in the mid-1970s, Liu became vice-party secretary for the region in 1992.

Liu is widely viewed as among the more conservative of the new leadership.

Wang Qishan

Wang Qishan represents China in economic talks with the United States and European Union [Reuters]

Wang is the current vice premier. He is a former Beijing mayor, Guangdong boss, and vice governor of the People’s Bank of China.

Wang cleaned up collapsed investment firms in southern China, calmed Beijing amid the SARS scare and, more recently, fended off US pressure over China’s currency policies.

An English speaker, the 64-year-old represents China in economic talks with the United States and European Union, whose leaders have praised him for his efforts to help advance economic ties.

He is reportedly married to the daughter of a standing committee member from the Deng Xiaoping era, and is often grouped with the “princeling faction”.

Zhang Gaoli
Zhang Gaoli is reportedly another protege of Jiang Zemin and is close to Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka-shing [Reuters]

Born in November 1946, Zhang has been party secretary of Tianjin municipality since 2007.

Trained as an economist, he spent decades in the southern business hub of Guangdong, rising to provincial vice-party secretary.

He ran the booming city of Shenzhen, near Hong Kong, in the late 1990s and later served as party secretary of Shandong province in eastern China.

He is reportedly another protege of Jiang Zemin and is close to Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka-shing.

Zhang is said to adhere to the motto: “Do more, speak less.”


Meanwhile, prominent Communist Party reformer Wang Yang and Liu Yandong were the notable omissions from the committee.

Wang has been secretary of Guangdong province since 2007, and previously party secretary of Chongqing. The 57-year-old was credited with promoting development in Guangdong by emphasising private enterprise, economic growth and a greater – although still limited – role for civil society.

Liu, meanwhile, is the only woman in the 25-member Politburo. She remains China’s highest-ranking female politician.

Liu served in the China Youth League from 1982-1991 under Hu, with whom she is believed to have strong ties. She is currently a cabinet member responsible for education, health and civil affairs.

Bo Xilai, another prominent leader who was once expected to be part of this decade’s standing committee, was ousted from the party following a murder scandal involving a British businessman.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies

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