New Party Leadership Unveiled

Xi Jinping has been chosen, as expected, as general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party, Xinhua reported on Thursday. The agency also revealed the membership of the new, seven-member Politburo Standing Committee who will join him at the top of the Party pyramid.

Xi Jinping was elected general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee at the first plenary session of the 18th CPC Central Committee on Thursday morning.

Other members of the newly elected Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the 18th CPC Central Committee are Li Keqiang, Zhang Dejiang, Yu Zhengsheng, Liu Yunshan, Wang Qishan, and Zhang Gaoli.

Xinhua’s announcements unexpectedly preceded the standing committee’s live unveiling at Beijing’s Great Hall of the People, at which Xi began his address by apologising for the delay. From Malcolm Moore at The Telegraph:

Welcoming his six “comrades” onto the stage, Mr Xi said China’s new leaders would battle to improve people’s lives and not to lose touch with the population. China’s new leaders faced “severe” challenges, he admitted, including a difficult fight against rampant corruption.

“Ours is a political party that serves the people wholeheartedly. We have every reason to be proud,” he said. “Proud but not complacent. We will never rest on our laurels.”

“Our responsibility is weightier than Mount Tai,” China’s incoming leader added, referring to the giant mountain in China’s Shandong province. “The journey ahead is long and arduous.”

For more of Xi’s speech, see Xinhua’s translation at Global Times.

Bloomberg has posted a ‘Who’s Who’ guide to all the new top leaders, while a Reuters infographic shows their place in China’s broader power structure. Notably absent from the list were Wang Yang and Li Yuanchao, whose inclusion might have signalled a more reformist inclination. Jeremy Page discussed Wang and Li’s prospects prior to the announcement at The Wall Street Journal:

Mr. Li, who studied briefly at Harvard’s Kennedy School in 2002, has overseen pilots schemes to enhance democracy within the party. According to a U.S. diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks, Mr. Li told U.S. diplomats in 2007 that China could hold competitive elections for the Politburo and its Standing Committee in 20 to 30 years.

Mr. Wang has eased restrictions on nongovernmental organizations and he won plaudits last year for reaching a negotiated settlement, rather than using force, when a village in Guangdong rebelled against party rule over a land grab by local officials.

Mr. Li is thought to stand more of a chance than Mr. Wang, but if neither make it, it would be seen as a blow to those inside and outside China hoping that the party will expand even limited experiments to encourage greater democracy within its own ranks.

“If neither Li or Wang enter the Standing Committee, that would really show Hu’s weakness,” said a Chinese academic with close party contacts [….]

Xi was also named chairman of the Central Military Commission, ending speculation over whether Hu Jintao would hold on to the post for up to two more years, as his predecessors have done. The Financial Times’ Richard McGregor, author of The Party: The Secret World of China’s Communist Rulers, summed up the combined implications:

 

McClatchy’s Tom Lasseter elaborated on the perceived factional divide within the new standing committee:

More than ideological lines, the committee introduced on Thursday seemed to be drawn along factional ties – specifically, an apparent victory for those close to former Chinese leader Jiang Zemin over the outgoing president and party secretary, Hu Jintao. The 86-year-old Jiang was last year rumored to have died or fallen into a vegetative state, but he recently made a series of public appearances that some speculated were a signal that he is still in the political game.

Xi Jinping himself was thought to be Jiang’s pick, versus Li Keqiang, who is closely affiliated with the same Communist Youth League that formed a power base for 69-year-old Hu.

Of the seven on the list, only Li and Liu Yunshan, a 65-year-old who’d been heading the party’s propaganda department, are viewed as being strongly allied with Hu.

Jiang was seen as having supported Xi and the other four committee members named on Thursday: 66-year-old Vice Premier Zhang Dejiang, 67-year-old Shanghai party chief Yu Zhengsheng, 66-year-old Tianjin party chief Zhang Gaoli and 64-year-old Vice Premier Wang Qishan.

But the longer-term picture for Hu’s legacy may be somewhat brighter. From Mark MacKinnon at The Globe and Mail:

A key caveat to Mr. Jiang’s apparent tour de force is the age of his allies who were promoted Thursday: all the new Standing Committee members – except Mr. Xi and Mr. Li – are 64 years or older, meaning all are slated to retire in 2017, clearing the field for Mr. Hu’s younger allies to rise to the Standing Committee ahead of the next major power transfer in 2022, when Mr. Xi and Mr. Li are due to step aside.

[…] The signals from the week-long Communist Party congress were decidedly mixed. Delegates ended the meeting with a solemn singing of the socialist anthem, The Internationale. Then they filed out of the Great Hall of the People, to a waiting fleet of chauffeured Audis.