The Communist Party has finally named the new party chief of Xian, the biggest city in China’s northwest, filling a position that had been vacant for more than half a year. Local authorities announced on Tuesday that Wang Hao, who was party boss of Tangshan, an industrial city in Hebei province, had been appointed Xian’s party secretary and a member of the Shaanxi provincial leadership. Xian, an ancient capital at the eastern end of the old Silk Road, is now the most important economic centre in the country’s northwest and a crucial link in Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative . Its party chief role had been vacant since February, when the previous holder left for another post in northeastern Heilongjiang province. There had been speculation that the only son of former president Hu Jintao, Hu Haifeng, was in the running for the role. Hu is the party boss of Lishui, a much smaller city in eastern Zhejiang, and a promotion to Xian would have elevated the 46-year-old to vice-ministerial rank and set him up for future career advancement. But six months later, Wang has instead been transferred from Hebei to fill the role. His appointment comes as Xian is still reeling from the aftermath of a political scandal last year, when local and provincial officials were accused of corruption and dereliction of duty after they repeatedly ignored direct orders from President Xi Jinping to demolish lavish villas illegally built in a nature reserve in the Qinling Mountains. Since then, a string of current and former officials have been demoted or investigated by the party’s anti-corruption watchdog. An official was placed under investigation in July in the latest case. China corruption watchdog’s big catch Zhao Zhengyong linked to string of scandals Wang, 55, started his public service career as a local cadre in a small county in his home province of Shandong, on the country’s eastern coast. From there, he worked his way up via different cities to become the party boss of Yantai, a port city, and a member of Shandong’s provincial standing committee. In December 2017, just eight months after he was appointed to Yantai, Wang left Shandong for Hebei province to become the party chief of Tangshan, a city known for its coal mines, steel mills and a catastrophic earthquake in 1967 that killed a quarter of a million people.