Hunan Communist Party secretary Zhou Qiang keeps a low profile and rarely exhibits individual traits, yet is arguably a rising political star who will become one of the country's top leaders in the next decade.
When he addressed about 100 journalists covering the National People's Congress and the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference on March 10, Zhou spoke in a voice that was low and hoarse enough to confuse his age. But, at 51, he is the mainland's third-youngest regional party secretary.
He dropped no clue when asked about speculation that he would soon be promoted to party boss of Chongqing after the attempted defection of Wang Lijun, former police chief in the municipality, which, in turn, implicated Bo Xilai , its former top party official. Zhou said: 'I am the party secretary of Hunan; it is my responsibility to perform well any tasks related to the province.'
During the two-hour meeting, Zhou said nothing extraordinary to give away any clues about his personality, although he appeared friendly, humble and popular.
Born in 1960 in Hubei, Zhou became first secretary of the Communist Youth League in 1998.
As a close ally to president and party secretary Hu Jintao, Zhou is widely tipped to either succeed Wang Yang as the next party boss of Guangdong or take the party's top post in Chongqing.
Due to his relative youthfulness, Zhou is likely to play a key role in mainland politics in the next decade. He will most likely be one of the strongest contenders for a seat on the top decision-making Politburo Standing Committee when another round of power reshuffles takes place in 2017, once he manages to win a place on the Politburo committee this year.
Unlike other rising political stars who appear eager to show off their eloquence, competence, confidence or sense of humour, Zhou took no further questions after the well-choreographed question-and-answer session. He left the venue under heavy security, fending off all journalists who approached him.