Infographic: China’s New Leaders after the 20th Party Congress

Following the conclusion of the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of China (CCP), the newly elected central committee convened and elected its new Politburo, Politburo Standing Committee (PSC), and Secretariat. This norm-breaking party congress saw General Secretary Xi Jinping extend his control over the CCP through his appointment to a third term and the removal of former leader Hu Jintao’s allies on the Politburo in favor of his own proteges.

James Gethyn Evans, Communications Officer at the Fairbank Center, and Yuanzhuo Wang, former Research Associate at Harvard Business School, visualize and explain China’s new leadership after the party congress. Additional research for this infographic was compiled by Connor Giersch, Kareena Stowers, and Frank Zhou.

China’s New Leaders, infographic by James Gethyn Evans and Yuanzhuo Wang

New Leadership, same “Core Leader”

As expected, Xi Jinping 习近平 was re-elected for a norm-breaking 3rd term as General Secretary. All six of Xi’s colleagues on the new PSC have ties to him before his ascension to General Secretary in 2012. As in previous versions, this is denoted in the infographic by an oval shape with letters representing an individual’s ties to Xi.

The Politburo Standing Committee (PSC) 中央政治局常务委员会

Two members of the 19th PSC–Premier Li Keqiang 李克强, and Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) Chair Wang Yang 汪洋–were not elected to the new central committee despite being under the traditional retirement age of 68. Both were seen as close to former General Secretary Hu Jintao 胡锦涛. They will retain their state offices (most likely) until March when the new state leaders will be formally elected. As with others in the same situation, they are no longer displayed in the infographic because they are not 20th central committee members.

Zhao Leji 赵乐际 and Wang Huning 王沪宁 of the 19th PSC were promoted into the top four slots of the new PSC and are expected to take over as Chair of the National People’s Congress (NPC) and the Chair of the CPPCC in March. The infographic uses |  |  to denote implied or likely positions. The infographic also uses {  } to denote  pre-congress positions that will likely be relinquished in the coming months.

Four members of the 19th Politburo were promoted into the new PSC

  • Li Qiang 李强, former Party Secretary of Shanghai, ranks 2nd on the new PSC behind Xi and, is expected to take over as Premier in March.
  • Cai Qi 蔡奇, Party Secretary of Beijing, ranks 5th, was elected to the Secretariat, and will serve as Xi’s new top party manager; it is unclear whether Cai will have oversight over both organization and propaganda or just one of the two; Wang Huning, Cai’s predecessor, only directly oversaw propaganda.
  • Ding Xuexiang 丁薛祥, effectively Xi’s Chief of Staff as the Director of the Central Committee General Office, may take over as first-ranked Premier if tradition holds; this comes as a surprise because Ding does not have experience in the central economic bureaucracy and does not have experience governing a province. Ding remains General Office Director for the time being.
  • Li Xi 李希, former Party Secretary of Guangdong, was elected the new Secretary of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI), the party’s top anti-corruption and supervision body

Note: the infographic underlines the name of new PSC, Politburo, and Central Secretariat members. 

The Politburo 中央政治局

Politburo membership was reduced from 25 to 24. Of the 17 non-PSC Politburo members, 13 members are new, and none are considered close associates of former General Secretary Hu Jintao from the Communist Youth League. No woman was elected to the new Politburo, breaking a tradition going back to the 1990s.

Hu Chunhua 胡春华, a protege of Hu Jintao, lost his Politburo seat despite his election to the new central committee and having all the right credentials (except ties to Xi) to remain on the core leadership team. Chen Quanguo 陈全国, the former Party Secretary of Xinjiang who oversaw the mass internment of ethnic Uyghurs, lost both his Politburo seat and central committee membership.

Two exceptions to the age 68 retirement rule were made: one for CMC Vice Chair General Zhang Youxia 张又侠 and one for Foreign Minister Wang Yi 王毅. All other 19th Politburo members aged 68 and above were not elected to the new central committee and Politburo. 

Zhang was a 19th Politburo member and Wang is new to the Politburo. Zhang remains one of the two Vice Chairmen of the Central Military Commission and is now China’s highest ranking career military officer. Wang is expected to take over from Yang Jiechi 杨洁篪 as China’s top diplomat with the position of Director of the Office of the Central Foreign Affairs Work Commission.

Chen Min’er 陈敏尔, Li Hongzhong 李鸿忠, and Huang Kunming 黄坤明 are the other 19th Politburo members who retained their seats.

Other positions yet to be reshuffled that are usually staffed by Politburo members include:

  • Some heads of key central committee departments (see Secretariat section below)
  • The First-ranked Vice Chair of the National People’s Congress
  • Vice Premiers of the State Council (each overseeing sectors of the economy): likely candidates include the Minister of the National Development and Reform Commission He Lifeng 何立峰 (for Liu He’s 刘鹤 portfolio of finance, technology, and industrial policy as well as Director of the Office of the Central Finance and Economics Commission), Fujian Party Secretary and former Vice Minister of Health Yin Li 尹力 (for health and other related areas), and Politburo veteran Chongqing Party Secretary Chen Min’er 陈敏尔 or Tianjin Party Secretary Li Hongzhong 李鸿忠.
  • Party secretaries of some of the key localities: Ma Xingrui 马兴瑞 was already appointed Xinjiang Party Secretary before the Congress and will likely remain in the position; Chen Jining 陈吉宁 has been confirmed as the new Shanghai Party Secretary and Huang Kunming 黄坤明 as the new Guangdong Party Secretary; the party secretaries of Beijing, Tianjin, and Chongqing have yet to be reshuffled

The Central Committee Secretariat 中央书记处

The Central Secretariat is the CCP’s top internal management body. It is officially chaired by the General Secretary, but day-to-day affairs are overseen by the first-ranked Secretary (newly elected Cai Qi 蔡奇).

Four of the 17 non-PSC Politburo members were also elected to the Central Committee Secretariat, denoted by an “S” in the infographic:

  • Shi Taifeng 石泰峰: newly confirmed as the Director of the United Front Works Department (中央统战部), which oversees relationship with ethnic minorities, religious groups, overseas Chinese, the private sector, non-communist intellectuals, and other non-communist parties and social influencers.
  • Li Ganjie 李干杰: Shandong party secretary; former Minister of Ecology and Environment.; Li could be the new Director of the Organization Department (中央组织部), which oversees personnel appointments vice minister rank and above (i.e. “centrally managed cadres” 中管干部), including the heads of the largest state-owned enterprises (several of which are Fortune 500 companies) and the most prestigious Chinese universities.
  • Li Shulei 李书磊: newly confirmed as the Director of the Propaganda Department (中央宣传部), which oversees party ideology and media censorship (including in cyberspace, publications, film, and television and radio broadcast).
  • Chen Wenqing 陈文清: newly confirmed as the Secretary of the Political Legal Commission (中央政法委), which oversee the security forces and the judiciary.

Two other Secretaries of the Central Committee Secretariat did not receive Politburo seats:

  • Wang Xiaohong 王小洪: the new Minister of Public Security, which means that the security’s system’s representation in the secretariat increases from one to two.
  • Liu Jinguo 刘金国: first-rank vice secretary of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, which is in charge of party discipline and anti-corruption.

It is unclear who will take over from Ding Xuexiang 丁薛祥 as the new director of the Central Committee General Office (中央办公厅), the administrative center of the party and gatekeepers of top party leaders. The position is traditionally occupied by a Central Secretariat Secretary. However, if Li Ganjie 李干杰 becomes the director of the Organization Department, there will be no secretaries left to fill the role.

In summary, the 20th Party Congress saw Xi Jinping extent his control over the CCP not only through his appointment to a norm-breaking third term, but also through the removal of former top leader Hu Jintao’s allies on the Politburo in favor of his own proteges.