The supporting cast


Li Zhanshu

Born in 1950 in Hebei’s Pingshan, Li is the oldest member of the Politburo Standing Committee. He is considered a late bloomer among senior Chinese officials, after spending most of his early career working in his native province. He became close friends with Xi Jinping in the early 1980s when they were the Party bosses of nearby counties in Hebei.

Li is currently the director of the general office of the CPC Central Committee and he is expected to become the chairman of the National People’s Congress (aka China’s legislative arm), which will make him the third most powerful man in the Party’s political structure. He will also oversee Hong Kong affairs.




Wang Yang

Born in 1955 in Anhui’s Suzhou, Wang has been considered a future political star since the 1980s when he became the mayor of Tongling. He was one of the youngest men in the country to take on the role and locals dubbed him “baby mayor”.

Arguably the most recognisable face among the new members of the Standing Committee, Wang governed Guangdong province and is considered to be an economic reformer. He currently serves as a vice premier of the State Council, where he has been Beijing’s top representative in the annual Strategic Dialogue meetings with the US.




Wang Huning

Born in 1955 in Shanghai, but from a family from Shandong’s Laizhou, Wang is arguably the least known of the newcomers to Beijing’s power summit. His reputation locally is as “the mastermind for three generations of emperors” because of his contribution in putting into words the political theories of Jiang Zemin’s Three Represents, Hu Jintao’s Scientific Outlook of Development and, last but not least, Xi Jinping Thought.

The veteran researcher is the only Standing Committee member without experience in governing a major provincial government. He is currently director of the Policy Research Office of the CPC Central Committee. He is expected to take over the key role of overseeing the Party’s propaganda and ideological work.




Zhao Leji

Born in 1957 in Qinghai – but from a family from Shaanxi’s Xi’an – Zhao is the youngest member of the Standing Committee. He could have climbed to the top sooner in 2012, according to Chinese media, but he missed out on a seat when the number of positions on the committee was cut to seven from nine.

Reportedly Zhao’s grandfather was a friend of Xi’s father. A former Party Secretary of Qinghai, Zhao heads the CPC’s powerful Organisation Department, which oversees the appointment of all senior officials. He is set to take on an even more important role: taking the baton from Wang Qishan as the next anti-corruption tsar.




Han Zheng

Born in 1954 in Shanghai – but from a family from Zhejiang’s Cixi – Han has worked in Shanghai since 1975, starting out as a warehouse keeper and eventually becoming the city’s Party chief. His background as a seasoned economic technocrat appears to have endeared him to senior politicians from Shanghai, including former leaders Jiang Zemin and Zhu Rongji. (If a “Shanghai Gang” faction still exists, Han is definitely a candidate for core membership.)

Han has helped to cement Shanghai’s status as a financial hub. He is expected to become the first-ranked of the four vice premiers of the State Council and play a key role in shaping China’s economic policies.

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