Li Keqiang

Six Politburo Standing Committee members are not technocrats

Six out of seven Politburo Standing Committee members are not technocrats, but analysts say their backgrounds will not affect their focus

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 20 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 20 November, 2012, 4:55am


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In a noticeable break from the past two decades of Communist Party leadership, dominated by technocrats, six of the seven members of the new Politburo Standing Committee, the party's top decision-making body, trained in social sciences and the humanities.

Analysts said the top leaders' educational backgrounds would have a bearing on their outlook and leadership style, but were unlikely to see them stray from the party's overriding focus on maintaining the status quo.

Li Keqiang, ranked No 2 in the Politburo Standing Committee, is the first senior party leader to hold a PhD in economics and master's and bachelor's degrees in law - all from Peking University.

Li, 57, who will succeed Wen Jiabao as premier in March, will be the best-educated premier since the founding of the People's Republic in 1949.

New party general secretary Xi Jinping , who studied chemical engineering at Beijing's Tsinghua University from 1975 to 1979, received a PhD in law (Marxist theory) through part-time study at Tsinghua's school of humanities and social sciences.

Four of the other members of the Politburo Standing Committee studied the social sciences or the humanities, with the sole remaining technocrat being Yu Zhengsheng , who studied automated control systems for ballistic missiles.

Seven of the nine members of the previous Politburo Standing Committee, of which Xi and Li were members, had degrees in the sciences or engineering.

Former general secretary Hu Jintao received a degree in hydraulic engineering from Tsinghua in 1965 and Wen was a geologist before becoming a politician.

The clout of technocrats reached a pinnacle in 1997, when all seven members of the Politburo Standing Committee formed that year had degrees in the sciences or engineering. Then general secretary Jiang Zemin received a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering from Shanghai Jiao Tong University in 1947.

Xiong Bingqi, deputy director of the 21st Century Education Research Institute, said the long tradition of the top leadership being dominated by technocrats was a result of the emphasis on science and engineering teaching on the mainland in the 1950s and 1960s, and a personnel selection regime - modelled on that of the former Soviet Union - favouring those trained in such fields.

He said the mainland education system had diversified since the late 1970s, leading to a gradual shift in the educational backgrounds of top leaders.

"In comparison with the technocrats who were rigorous in their way of thinking and more plan-oriented, the officials trained in social sciences focus more on people's living environment and the well-being of each individual," Xiong said.

"But the public should not be too carried away by such a generalisation based on the educational background of each individual given the broad political and social context in China."

Political analyst Chen Ziming said those who studied the social sciences would definitely be more aware of other political systems and civilisations.

"As a result, the new leadership will care more about human development," he said. "But they're not necessarily more willing to embrace some of the universal values because they have their work cut out under the political system here."