Young pretenders fail to break into China’s innermost circle, as we review the new leadership line-up

Two ‘rising stars’ miss out on places on seven-member Standing Committee, but Xi Jinping’s allies dominate new-look Politburo

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 25 October, 2017, 4:11pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 25 October, 2017, 5:44pm

China’s ruling Communist Party unveiled its new leadership on Wednesday morning, ending months of speculation over how President Xi Jinping would assemble his team to kick-start a second term in power.

The seven members of the Politburo Standing Committee, the county’s apex of power, are, in order of seniority: President Xi Jinping, Premier Li Keqiang, Li Zhanshu, Wang Yang, Wang Huning, Zhao Leji and Han Zheng.

All but Xi and Li Keqiang are new appointments, and their promotions in line with forecasts made by the South China Morning Post.

One rung below the Standing Committee is the Politburo itself, a key decision-making body with 25 members, 15 of them newly appointed after the party congress.

Here are the takeaways from the two bodies:

Politburo Standing Committee

No new appointments young enough to succeed Xi: Neither Guangdong party chief Hu Chunhua, a man widely tipped to be Xi’s successor, nor the president’s protégé, Chongqing party chief Chen Miner, secured a seat on the Standing Committee.

This is likely to fuel the debate over whether Xi intends to extend his reign beyond a second term. It might also suggest that he is reconsidering the designated successor system introduced by paramount leader Deng Xiaoping, which has guided power transitions for the past three decades.

Former personnel chief and Xi ally Zhao Leji will take over the party’s top anti-graft watchdog from retiring chief Wang Qishan.

Anti-corruption chief Wang Qishan steps down from top Chinese leadership as Xi Jinping’s name is enshrined in Communist Party charter

Li Zhanshu, Xi’s most trusted ally and the country’s new number three, is expected to head the National People’s Congress – China’s parliament.

The liberal-leaning Vice-Premier Wang Yang, who ranks fourth on the Standing Committee, is now likely, if traditions are followed, to chair the top political advisory body, the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference.

Shanghai party boss Han Zheng, whom the Post predicted would take the reins at the CPPCC, is instead likely to help Premier Li Keqiang run the State Council, as executive vice-premier.

Wang Huning, the party’s principal theorist will, based on his ranking on the Standing Committee, be the new ideology tsar.


Ten of the 15 new faces on the 25-member decision-making body are regarded as Xi Jinping’s allies, protégés or loyalists. Between them they will take over, or hang on to, the top offices in the party’s central apparatus, military, and key provinces and municipalities.

The president’s new men are: Ding Xuexiang, Liu He, Li Xi, Li Qiang, Li Hongzhong, Zhang Youxia, Chen Xi, Chen Miner, Hung Kunming and Cai Qi.

Where will Liu He, the mastermind of China’s economic policies, go next?

A significant addition to the Politburo is China’s top diplomat Yang Jiechi, making him the first foreign affairs supremo to join the elite club in nearly two decades. As the Post reported, Yang’s promotion underscores the need for a diplomat with a bigger say and closer ties to the inner circle of China’s leadership as he seeks to promote and expand the country’s global interests. There have been calls for such a move for many years. The last diplomat to hold a seat on the Politburo was former foreign minister Qian Qichen in the 1990s. Yang is also now a front runner to become a vice-premier in March.

Shanghai mayor Ying Yong and Guangdong governor Ma Xingrui failed to make it on to the Politburo, meaning they will not now be promoted to party boss of their respective regions, as many observers had speculated.

There is now just one woman on the Politburo – 67-year-old incumbent Sun Chunlan – after her only female colleague on the decision-making body, Vice-Premier Liu Yandong, retired.