The Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies presents a visual guide to China’s leadership after the “Two Meetings” of March 2018, and the new leaders’ ties to Xi Jinping. By Yuan Wang, Research Associate at Harvard Business School, and James Evans, Publications Coordinator at the Fairbank Center.
Read more about our infographic, as well as a teaching guide to elite Chinese politics after the 13th National People’s Congress and Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, on the Fairbank Center Blog.
Between March 3 and March 20, 2018, the 13th National People’s Congress (NPC) and 13th Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) held their respective first sessions in Beijing.
The PRC constitution was amended during the NPC session to, among other things, remove presidential and vice presidential term limits, enshrine Xi Jinping’s eponymous ideology, and emphasize that the “leadership of the Communist Party of China is the most fundamental characteristic of socialism with Chinese characteristics.”
On March 17, after being unanimously re-elected President of the PRC by the NPC, Xi Jinping became the first ruler of Mainland China to take an oath of office to uphold the national constitution since Chiang Kai-shek in 1948. Other leaders also took oaths to uphold the constitution after being elected.
Since 2012 and especially since 2017, many leaders with personal ties or career overlaps with Xi Jinping have been promoted to the top ranks of the national leadership. The ties between certain leaders and Xi Jinping before he became CCP General Secretary in 2012 are visualized in the small grey boxes in the infographic. They indicate a leader’s ties to Xi Jingping through his home province of Shaanxi, his early life in Beijing, or career overlaps in Hebei, Fujian, Zhejiang, Shanghai, or the CCP-CC Secretariat. This information was sourced from the leaders’ published resumes, as well Cheng Li’s book Chinese Politics in the Xi Jinping Era, which is very informative on leaders’ significant ties to Shaanxi and to Xi’s early life.
With the exception of Wang Qishan, the most powerful newly-elected state leaders became members of the CCP’s Politburo Standing Committee (PSC, depicted in orange on the infographic), Politburo (PB, depicted in yellow on the infographic), or Secretariat (marked with an “S”) in October 2017.
Some members of CCP bodies were not elected to state offices, but oversee state leaders in their CCP assigned areas of responsibilities. Together with other state leaders of vice national rank and above they constitute China’s “leaders of party and state” (党和国家领导人) and govern the country under (or around) the “Core” of the leadership — Xi Jinping — through the institutions they oversee or CCP policy coordinating commissions and “leading groups” they chair or manage.
After the NPC, several “leading groups” (领导小组), specifically on comprehensively deepening reform (全面深化改革), finance and economics (财经), foreign affairs (外事), and internet security and informatization (网络安全和信息化), were upgraded or are being upgraded to policy coordinating “commissions” to ensure “centralized and unified leadership” (集中统一领导) of the party and “top level design” of policy (顶层设计). Other commissions or leading groups are being created on “comprehensively governing the country by law” (全面依法治国), auditing, and education.
Instead of retiring as expected, Wang Qishan, who was unable to retain CCP-CC membership and his PSC seat because he was over the retirement age, was elected Vice President of the PRC. Seating arrangement and media protocol during and after the NPC session, which showed Wang after current PSC members but before PB members, indicated that Wang retained his national-rank as a former member of the PSC, despite having stepped down from his formal position in the party leadership.