The 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China) is about to be held. For China, a one-party state, the CCP’s five-year political meeting essentially determines the new leadership of the country.
The most concerned is the competition for the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee. The current seven-member Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee is the actual highest decision-making body in China. The Standing Committee often holds important positions such as the president, the prime minister, the chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, and the chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference. in official news reports.
However, the selection of Standing Committee members is usually carried out in secret, and the outside world usually needs to know the lineup of the latest Standing Committee members only on the last day of the party congress, when the leaders who have “entered the Standing Committee” meet with the media.
However, we can still get some clues about how this process works from the propaganda of some official media.
China’s official media “People’s Daily Online” previously disclosed that in June 2007 before the “17th National Congress”, then General Secretary Hu Jintao held a meeting of party members and leading cadres, and each participant was given an orange-red democratic Recommendation votes to ask them to elect Politburo members, including candidates for the Standing Committee, among nearly 200 people (including minister-level cadres under the age of 63 and cadres in the Zhengda Military Region of the army). Officials said the list “provided a reference” for the final result.
However, Xi Jinping does not seem to like this approach. According to reports, he believes that this “overemphasizes the weight of votes”, resulting in some people “voting randomly and distorting public opinion.” So before the 19th National Congress in 2017, he spoke face-to-face with 57 senior officials, while other leaders consulted nearly 300 others for advice.
As China’s most powerful leader since Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping, Xi Jinping is likely to use this approach to help strengthen his control at the 20th Party Congress, especially as he is widely expected to break with tradition and seek a third term of office of the general secretary. But other standing committee members face another obstacle – age.
Since the CCP’s first orderly handover of power in 2002, the unwritten restriction of “seven ups and eight downs” has been in operation for nearly 20 years. The 67-year-old can still stay on.
The 69-year-old Xi Jinping is likely to break this constraint at the “20th National Congress” starting on October 16, and whether the remaining 24 Politburo members (including the other six members of the Standing Committee) will still follow this convention is a cause for concern.
In terms of age, Li Zhanshu, 72, and Han Zheng, 68, have reached the age limit. If the practice continues, they will face retirement.
The 67-year-old premier, Li Keqiang, has not “touched the wire”, but Chinese law stipulates that the prime minister cannot serve more than two consecutive terms, which may mean that Li Keqiang has two possibilities: retire, or remain on the standing committee, but transfer to other positions.
Therefore, how many standing committee positions on the “20th Party Congress” will be reserved for new faces will be unknown until the last moment. Below is a list of officials who may be on the Politburo Standing Committee based on factors such as age, and profiles of them.
Vice Premier Hu Chunhua is the youngest member of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee. The 59-year-old (born in 1963) is in charge of agriculture and is the leader of the Central Leading Group for Rural Work. He is also the main executor of Xi Jinping’s poverty alleviation work.
Hu Chunhua was once seen as the next-generation general secretary of the Communist Party and the successor to the country’s president, but Xi Jinping’s constitutional revisions have greatly reduced that possibility. His relationship with Mr. Xi is not seen as close, but his wealth of credentials could still advance him further.
Hu Chunhua came from a grassroots family in rural Hubei Province. In 1979, the newly resumed college entrance examination changed his fate. He was admitted to Peking University with the number one scholar in the county’s liberal arts.
After graduation, he went to work in Tibet for 14 years. In the late 1980s, he became deputy secretary of the Communist Youth League Tibet Autonomous Region, when the “top leader” in Tibet was Hu Jintao, who later became the general secretary of the Communist Party.
He was then transferred to the Central Committee of the Communist Youth League and became the acting governor of Hebei Province in 2008, during the exposure of the “Sanlu Poisoned Milk Powder” incident. At the end of the following year, he was transferred to Secretary of the Inner Mongolia Party Committee. In 2012, he was promoted to member of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee and served as secretary of the Guangdong Provincial Party Committee.
But his path to a “successor” was blocked at the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China in 2017, when he did not succeed in being promoted to the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee. Together with him, he was regarded as a rising political star in Chongqing at the time. Sun Zhengcai, secretary of the municipal party committee, was even announced as “lost”.
In 2018, he became the vice premier of the State Council, ranking third among the four vice premiers, in charge of agriculture and poverty alleviation. At the beginning of 2021, the Chinese government announced that it had completed the task of eradicating absolute poverty, and achieved a “comprehensive victory” in the battle against poverty.
Ding Xuexiang is currently Secretary of the Secretariat of the CPC Central Committee and Director of the General Office of the CPC Central Committee. At the age of 60 (born in September 1962), he is a close aide to Xi Jinping and a key candidate for the Standing Committee at the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China.
Ding Xuexiang was an engineer, which made his career start at the Shanghai Institute of Materials. In 1996, he became director.
In 1999, he became the deputy director of the Shanghai Municipal Science and Technology Commission, and in 2001 he was appointed as the mayor of Shanghai Zhabei District.
In 2007, at the age of 45, he served as a member of the Standing Committee of the CPC Shanghai Municipal Committee and Secretary General, and became the political secretary of Xi Jinping, then Secretary of the Shanghai Municipal Party Committee. Although the two had been together for less than a year before Xi was transferred to the central government, that time may have earned him Xi’s trust.
In 2013, he was promoted to deputy director of the General Office of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, and soon after was given the new title of Xi Jinping’s personal office director. Since then, he has accompanied Xi Jinping to visit home and abroad many times.
In 2017, he became a member of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee, secretary of the Secretariat of the CPC Central Committee, and concurrently director of the General Office of the CPC Central Committee. He is regarded as Xi Jinping’s “right-hand man”.
Chen Miner, secretary of the CPC Chongqing Municipal Committee, is also an important contender for the seat of the Standing Committee of the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China. The 62-year-old (born in September 1960) has worked with Xi Jinping for a long time in Zhejiang Province and is considered a loyal supporter of Xi Jinping Thought.
Chen Min’er’s political career started from the propaganda department in Shaoxing, Zhejiang. In 2000, he began to run the provincial party newspaper “Zhejiang Daily”. According to state media reports, he had written for the newspaper’s column “Zhejiang Langhua” as “this newspaper reporter Chen Min’er”.
Soon after, he became head of the propaganda department of the Zhejiang provincial party committee, whose secretary at the time was Xi Jinping.
According to reports, Chen Miner pushed the front page of Zhejiang Daily to launch the column “Zhijiang Xinyu”, and published more than 200 short comments signed “Zhexin”, which is Xi Jinping’s pseudonym.
Chen Min’er was later transferred to be the secretary of the Guizhou Provincial Party Committee, and took over as the secretary of the Chongqing Municipal Party Committee after Sun Zhengcai was “fallen” in 2017. In Chongqing, he vowed to “clean up the residual poison of Bo Xilai and Sun Zhengcai”.
Li Qiang, the current secretary of the Shanghai Municipal Party Committee, is also one of the core staff of Xi Jinping’s team. The 63-year-old (born in 1959) worked with Xi Jinping when he was in power in Zhejiang. The mishandling of the epidemic in Shanghai this year may cast a shadow on Li Qiang’s career, but there is still a chance of “normalization”.
Li Qiang, a former worker, studied agricultural mechanization at a technical school. In 1984, he became secretary of the Ruian County Party Committee of the Communist Youth League in Zhejiang Province, and was soon transferred to the Zhejiang Provincial Department of Civil Affairs, responsible for rural work.
In 1992, he became the deputy director of the Provincial Department of Civil Affairs, and served in many places in Zhejiang for more than ten years.
In 2016, Li Qiang was transferred to Jiangsu as the secretary of the provincial party committee. In 2017, he was promoted to a member of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee and was transferred to the secretary of the Shanghai Municipal Party Committee.
In March this year, the outbreak of the new crown epidemic in Shanghai raised questions about Li Qiang’s continued promotion. This round of the epidemic is the most severe challenge faced by China, which has adhered to the “zero” policy for the past two years, with more than 20,000 new infections at the peak.
The severe blockade that lasted for more than two months has led to frequent crises in people’s livelihood in Shanghai, and the economy has been hit hard. When Li Qiang inspected a residential area, he was rarely reprimanded by emotional residents. The images were widely circulated on social media.
Due to his age, if Li Qiang becomes a member of the Standing Committee, he may only serve one term.
Li Xi, the current secretary of the Guangdong Provincial Party Committee, may also go further in this “Twenty National Congress”. Li Xi is 65 years old (born in October 1956). Over the past few years, he seems to have gained Xi Jinping’s trust, even though the two have no direct experience working together.
Li Xi has worked in his home province of Gansu for 22 years, from secretary of the provincial propaganda department secretariat to secretary of the provincial party committee. In 2004, he was transferred to the Standing Committee and Secretary-General of the Shaanxi Provincial Party Committee.
In 2011, Li Xi came to East China from the west. After a brief period of “gilding” in Shanghai for three years, he was transferred to Liaoning in the northeast as the secretary of the provincial party committee.
At that time, Liaoning experienced a series of incidents such as the bribery case of the National People’s Congress and the falsification of economic data, and the appointment of Li Xi was regarded as a “firefighting captain”. During his four years in Liaoning, he reorganized the officialdom and carried out reforms.
In 2017, Liaoning publicly admitted that the province had falsified financial data from 2011 to 2014. In these years, Li Xi’s predecessor Wang Min was in charge of Liaoning, who was later sentenced to life imprisonment.
In 2017, Li Xi joined the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and was transferred to Guangdong as the “top leader”. Guangdong is a major economic province in China and a springboard for the Politburo Standing Committee, and his career may still go further.
Huang Kunming, now head of the Central Propaganda Department, is the leader of Xi’s propaganda strategy. Huang Kunming is 65 years old (born in November 1956). If Wang Huning (born in October 1955), the current member of the Standing Committee in charge of ideology, leaves at the “Twenty National Congress”, Huang Kunming has a certain possibility to take his place.
Huang Kunming served in the People’s Liberation Army, and then served in his hometown of Longyan, Fujian for a long time. In 1999, he started working in the neighboring province of Zhejiang, and in 2007 served as the head of the propaganda department of the Zhejiang Provincial Party Committee.
It is worth noting that when Xi Jinping was in power in Fujian and Zhejiang, he was under Xi’s subordinates.
After Xi Jinping came to power in 2012, he emphasized that ideological work was “an extremely important work.” Shortly after Xi Jinping’s remarks, Huang Kunming was promoted to vice minister of the Central Propaganda Department.
Under the leadership of Xi Jinping, the CCP quickly tightened its control over the Internet, the media and ideology, expanded censorship and blocking, warned college teachers to obey the party’s ideology, and put forward the slogan “Party media surnames the party”, demanding that the media “must put political Direction comes first.”
In 2015, Huang Kunming said in an article published in the People’s Daily, “At present, the international environment is more complicated, and Western hostile forces are stepping up their efforts to westernize and differentiate me.”
In October 2018, the Hong Kong media visiting Beijing group met with Huang Kunming. Xiao Shihe, the head of the visiting group and the CEO of Sing Tao Group, revealed that Huang Kunming once said that “Hong Kong media should not become a base for interfering with mainland politics.”
Cai Qi, secretary of the Beijing Municipal Party Committee, is also Xi Jinping’s former ministry in Fujian and Zhejiang. The 66-year-old (born in December 1955) once had a rocket-like leap in officialdom, but his age means he can only serve one term if he is “regular”.
Cai Qi transferred from a college to the General Office of the Fujian Provincial Party Committee in his early years, and gradually climbed the ranks. In 1997, he became the mayor of Sanming City.
Two years later, he was transferred to Zhejiang to serve as the mayor of Quzhou City, and later the secretary of the Quzhou Municipal Party Committee, which coincided with the trajectory of Xi Jinping, who was also transferred from Fujian to Zhejiang. At that time, Cai Qi attracted attention because he was one of the few high-ranking officials who used Weibo, and his followers reached more than 6 million.
In 2014, he was transferred to the Central Committee as Deputy Director of the Office of the newly established Central National Security Committee. In 2016, he became the Deputy Secretary of the Municipal Party Committee of the capital Beijing, and in 2017, he became the Secretary of the Beijing Municipal Party Committee.
He was elected as a member of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China at the “19th National Congress” in October 2017, but he was not a member of the Central Committee or an alternate member of the Central Committee at that time, and the promotion speed was rare.
After he came to power in Beijing, he quickly launched a series of rectification actions, such as demanding “population control” and large-scale forcible demolition of cheap rental houses, leading to a highly controversial campaign to clean up the “low-end population”.
He also proposed removing plaques and billboards from the roofs of buildings in Beijing to “brighten the skyline”. Beijing authorities reportedly removed nearly 9,000 plaques in two months. But the action was criticized as a waste of money and labor.
During Cai Qi’s tenure, Beijing successfully hosted the Winter Olympics amid the epidemic, which may be regarded as a “bonus item” in his career.
Li Hongzhong, the current secretary of the Tianjin Municipal Party Committee, has rich experience in governing. At the age of 66 (born in August 1956), he has no experience of working with Xi Jinping, but he has long expressed his support and loyalty to Xi Jinping, which makes him not rule out being a “dark horse” in this year’s “20th National Congress”.
Li Hongzhong, who was born in the history department, worked in his hometown Liaoning in his early years. In 1985, he became secretary to Li Tieying, secretary of the Liaoning Provincial Party Committee. Following Li Tieying’s transfer as Minister of the Ministry of Electronics Industry in the same year, he was also transferred to the General Office of the Ministry of Electronics Industry.
In 1995, he went to work in Guangdong Province. Ten years later, he became the party secretary of the special economic zone Shenzhen. In 2007, he went to Hubei and became governor and secretary of the provincial party committee successively. In 2016, he became the provincial party secretary of Tianjin, a municipality directly under the Central Government.
Li Hongzhong is known for his repeated emphasis on loyalty to Xi Jinping. In 2016, he put forward Xi Jinping’s “core” theory for the first time. In 2018, Li Hongzhong re-emphasized that maintaining Xi Jinping’s core status is “China’s biggest politics”.
But his popularity among the people was shattered by a case of snatching a reporter’s recorder.
In 2010, when he was the governor of Hubei Province, he was interviewed by the media during the “two sessions”. A reporter asked him what he thought of the Deng Yujiao case (a hotel waitress in Hubei killed a civil servant who tried to rape her in 2019), Li Hongzhong not only did not answer the reporter’s question, but also repeatedly asked which media she worked for, and took down the tape recorder, saying that he would tell the leader of the media where the reporter worked.
The incident once aroused criticism from Chinese media and netizens. Opponents called for Li Hongzhong to step down. However, judging from Li Hongzhong’s promotion to provincial party secretary in the same year, this incident obviously did not affect him within the party.
Chen Quanguo, currently the deputy head of the Central Leading Group for Rural Work, once ruled Xinjiang with an iron fist. Chen Quanguo is 66 years old (born in November 1955). It was during his tenure that more than one million Uighur and other ethnic Muslims were estimated to have been detained, and some were allegedly ill-treated and tortured, sparking international protests.
In 2021, Chen Quanguo resigned as secretary of the Xinjiang Party Committee, and this year attended an agricultural symposium as the “Deputy Head of the Central Rural Work Leading Group”. Although this seems to be relegated, the possibility of him becoming a “dark horse” cannot be ruled out.
Chen Quanguo, who was born in Henan, has been serving in Henan since the beginning of his career. In 1998, he was promoted to vice-governor of Henan and became the deputy to then-governor Li Keqiang, where he worked for five years.
In 2011, he jumped to the rank of “Fengjiang official” and was in charge of Tibet. At that time, Tibet had just experienced the riots in 2008, and there were frequent reports of Tibetans self-immolation. Chen Quanguo has adopted a series of high-handed policies in Tibet, including establishing surveillance networks and setting up security checkpoints. His policies have restored social stability and Tibet’s economy has grown rapidly, but has also been accused of violating human rights and promoting cultural assimilation.
He has been in charge of Xinjiang since 2016, bringing the iron-fisted policy of Tibet to Xinjiang. He vigorously built re-education camps, known in China as educational and training centers, and expanded the recruitment of stability maintainers. Xinjiang authorities say the measures are aimed at fighting terrorism and “de-radicalization”.
The UN report on Xinjiang released on August 31 concluded that there were “serious human rights violations” in Xinjiang and that some allegations of abuse and torture were “credible”.
Due to the Xinjiang issue, Chen Quanguo was placed on the US sanctions list in 2020.