China's leadership reshuffle 2017: Rising stars
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Chen Quanguo has been named as Xinjiang’s party boss, an appointment that is expected to come with a seat on the Politburo. Photo: SCMP Pictures.

Rising stars emerge in Communist Party reshuffle as Xi Jinping paves way for 2017 party congress

Chen Quanguo in line for Politburo seat after being named Xinjiang’s new party chief

Some Communist Party officials are on track to higher political ­office and allies of President Xi Jinping are in key positions after the latest round of personnel changes on the weekend.

One of the political rising stars is Chen Quanguo, who was named party chief of Xinjiang, a post that usually comes with a seat on the decision-making Politburo.

Chen, 60, the former party chief of Tibet, would replace Zhang Chunxian, one of the 25 members of the Politburo, Xinhua reported yesterday. Xinhua did not say what Zhang’s next job would be but he is tipped to become a deputy chief of a leading group on party building in Beijing.

The Politburo also includes the party bosses of Beijing, Tianjin, Shanghai, Chongqing and Guangdong.

With his new appointment, Chen is likely to be elevated to the elite body in a major leadership reshuffle at the 19th party congress due late next year.

Zhang Chunxian, party secretary of Xinjiang, at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing earlier this year. Photo: Simon Song

Chen worked in Henan province for more than a quarter of a century, rising to deputy party chief in April 2003.


He served under then provincial party secretary Li Keqiang for about 18 months ­before Li was named party chief of Liaoning in December 2004. Chen went on to become the governor of neighbouring Hebei province in early 2010, before being appointed to Tibet’s top job roughly 1½ years later. He was an alternate member of the party’s 17th Central Committee and a full member of the present 18th Central Committee.

Observers said Chen would probably secure a place on the next Politburo, but there was still a chance the rules of the game could change on Xi’s watch.

Unlike his predecessors who made it clear who their successors were five years before they handed over power, Xi has offered no clues as to who might succeed him in 2022.

In this sense, one should not make a conclusion for the time being
Johnny Lau Yui-siu

“In this sense, one should not make a conclusion for the time being,” Hong Kong-based veteran China watcher Johnny Lau Yui-siu said.

Beijing-based political analyst Zhang Lifan said it was too early to be sure that Chen would become a Politburo member because the power struggles at the top had not been settled. “In terms of party tradition, changes can emerge at the last minute ,” Zhang said.


And many factors might still be at play with the party congress still more than a year away, he said.

The party’s weekend reshuffle announcement came after closed-door meetings among the organisation’s elite at Beidaihe in Hebei province.

In other moves, Chen Hao was named party chief of Yunnan after a roughly 18-month stint as the province’s governor, a transition observers described as swift.


Chen was deputy head of the standing committee of the Shanghai’s people’s congress when Xi was named the city’s party chief in 2007.

Sources also said Shanxi governor Li Xiaopeng, the elder son of former premier Li Peng, would move to become transport minister.

Li’s vacated position will be filled by Lou Yangsheng, deputy party chief of the resource-rich province.


Lou is seen as one of Xi’s allies, and both worked in Zhejiang province.

Lou Yangsheng will become Shanxi’s governor. Photo: SCMP Pictures

Zhang Lifan said it was clear Xi intended to install his picks in the ruling team, even though some of the appointees were not regarded as having the necessary rank or experience.


Lau said Xi was handpicking officials based on their political factions.

In addition to Chen Quan­guo’s appointment, Xinhua also reported that Li Jiheng, Chen Hao’s immediate predecessor, was named the party head of ­Inner Mongolia, replacing Wang Jun, who is retiring.

Anhui governor Li Jinbin will take over as the province’s party boss from Wang Xuejun, who is retiring.

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Reshuffle paves way for party congressReshuffle lays groundwork for party congress