Last week saw The Communist Party of China (CPC) unveiled a new leadership line-up for the next 5 years. Xi Jinping was again elected general secretary of the CPC Central Committee, leading its seven-seat Political Bureau Standing Committee. The other six members of the top leadership are Li Keqiang, Li Zhanshu, Wang Yang, Wang Huning, Zhao Leji and Han Zheng. For the first time, all Standing Committee members of the Political Bureau were born after the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949.
Personal Profiles of the Standing Committee:
Xi Jinping, 64, retains his spot on top of the Party pecking order, entering his second term as General Secretary and third term on the PSC.
Xi is considered China’s most powerful leader since at least Deng Xiaoping, and perhaps even Mao Zedong. At the 19th Party Congress, he became the only leader besides Mao to have his name written into the Party constitution while living. Last year, he earned the designation of “core leader” of the Party, a title his predecessor Hu Jintao did not obtain.
Xi also holds the titles of President of the People’s Republic of China and Chairman of the Central Military Commission.
Born in Beijing, he is the son of Party legend Xi Zhongxun. During the Cultural Revolution, he lived in a cave and performed manual labor in Shaanxi province. Before rising to the PSC in 2007, Xi held leadership positions in Fujian and Zhejiang provinces, as well as a brief stop in Shanghai.
Li Keqiang, 62, continues to hold the number two position on the PSC as Premier of the State Council, China’s cabinet. The position makes him head of the Chinese government and economic affairs.
Li holds a PhD in economics from China’s prestigious Peking University, and is known to hold more market-oriented policy preferences than many others in the Party. He rose through Party ranks as a member of the Communist Youth League, and was a protégé of former president Hu Jintao, who reportedly wanted Li to be his successor.
Prior to joining the PSC alongside Xi in 2007, Li held leadership posts in Henan province from 2002 to 2004 and Liaoning province from 2004 to 2007. He was born in Hefei, the capital of Anhui province.
Although he carries several responsibilities as Premier, including instituting economic reforms and combatting pollution, he is generally considered less powerful than his predecessors Wen Jiabao and Zhu Rongji.
Li Zhanshu enters the PSC as the third-ranking member. He is a trusted associate of Xi, having been his chief of staff since 2012. At 67 years old, he narrowly avoided the age cut-off to join the PSC.
With his ascension to the PSC, Li is expected to head the National People’s Congress, China’s parliament. Currently, he is the Director of the General Office of the Communist Party of China and Chief of the General Office of the National Security Commission.
Li first met Xi when the two held Party positions in Hebei province, where he was born, in the 1980s. Li later held leadership positions in Heilongjiang and Guizhou provinces, as well as in the city of Xi’an, the capital of Shaanxi province.
Wang Yang, 62, is the fourth-ranking member of the new PSC. He will reportedly take the position of Chairman of the Chinese People’s Consultative Conference, China’s top political advisory body.
Currently, Wang is China’s Vice Premier. Along with Li Keqiang, he is widely considered one of the most liberal reformers among China’s leadership, and is also connected to former president Hu Jintao.
Wang is credited with being instrumental in the development of Chongqing, where he was Party Secretary from 2005 to 2007. From 2007 to 2012, he was Party Secretary of Guangdong province, which has the highest GDP and largest population of China’s provinces.
Wang Huning, 62, emerged from the 19th Party Congress ranking fifth on the PSC. Wang has long been considered one of the Party’s top political theorists, and will head ideology, propaganda, and party organization.
He is currently the Director of the Central Policy Research Office, which is responsible for drafting the guiding theories and ideology of the Party.
Wang is widely considered to have been essential in forming the former president Jiang Zemin’s “Three Represents” theory, Hu Jintao’s “Scientific Development” theory, as well as Xi’s “China Dream” and “Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era”.
Wang rose to prominence through a brief but prolific career as an academic at Shanghai’s Fudan University, where he wrote on both foreign and domestic affairs. He is considered a close confidante of Xi, with whom his theory of “neo-authoritarianism” and tough stance on corruption has proved highly influential.
Zhao Leji, 60, enters the PSC in the sixth spot. He is poised to take over Wang Qishan’s role as Secretary of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, making him China’s anti-corruption czar.
Currently, Zhao is the head of the powerful Organization Department of the Central Committee, which manages personnel and promotions within the Party.
From 2003 to 2007, Zhao was Party Secretary of Qinghai province, where he was born, and from 2007 to 2012 was the Party Secretary of Shaanxi province. Zhao’s connections to Shaanxi province, where is family is originally from, are believed to be how he formed ties with Xi, with whom he is a strong supporter.
Han Zheng, 63, takes the seventh and final spot on the PSC. He is tipped to take over the role of Executive Vice Premier.
Han has deep ties to Shanghai, where he was born, grew up, and attended university. He was Mayor of Shanghai from 2003 to 2012, and acting Party Secretary of Shanghai from 2006 to 2007. He succeeded Xi as Shanghai’s full time Party Secretary in 2012.
Han was known as a close associate of Jiang Zemin, who also has strong ties to Shanghai. He became acquainted with Xi when the two overlapped in Shanghai, with Han as Mayor and Xi and Party Secretary.