Zhang Gaoli has been tasked with transforming the moribund city of Tianjin into a rival of Shanghai with the help of a powerful political ally and his experience in the country's developed south.
He is a newcomer to Tianjin, having been named the city's Communist Party secretary only in March. Mr Zhang, 60, who is from Fujian province , spent much of his political career in Guangdong. He is an economist, educated at Xiamen University.
The leadership shuffle in Tianjin followed a corruption scandal which helped sweep from office some of the proteges of the city's former party secretary, Zhang Lichang , who retired.
Zhang Gaoli owes his climb to Vice-President Zeng Qinghong , in a link perhaps formed by their shared background in the oil industry.
Tianjin, which languished for years in Beijing's shadow, has been reborn. The central government has designated the city's Binhai district as a state-level special economic zone, on a par with Shenzhen and Shanghai's Pudong district.
The city has in recent years won honours which might have gone to Shanghai. It has been picked as the site for an Airbus manufacturing plant, currency reforms and an experiment to allow mainland investors to buy Hong Kong shares. With his experience as economic chief, deputy governor and deputy party secretary in Guangdong as well as a stint as party secretary of Shenzhen, Mr Zhang is well placed to lead the drive to make Tianjin the growth engine of northern China.
After Guangdong, Mr Zhang become deputy governor of Shandong , rising to governor and party secretary of the province before he was tapped for Tianjin.
A professor at Shenzhen University when Mr Zhang worked in Guangdong from 1985 to 2001, said his biggest achievement had been his contribution to Shenzhen's technology industry.
'He's very aggressive in getting what he wants. I think his career future is bright,' the academic said.