China’s Communist Party announced the makeup of the new Politburo Standing Committee today. The panel, which was reduced to seven members from nine, is the most powerful decision-making body in China.
Xi Jinping, 59, was named general secretary of the 82-million member Communist Party and is set to take over the presidency, a mostly ceremonial post, from Hu Jintao in March. He served in top positions in prosperous coastal regions, including Fujian, Zhejiang and Shanghai, from 1985 through 2007, winning praise for his pro-market policies. Since returning to Beijing, Xi has also headed the Communist Party’s main cadre training school, where he makes speeches laced with references to Karl Marx and Vladimir Lenin. A visit to the U.S. in February took him back to Muscatine, Iowa, where he spent time in 1985 studying farming techniques. The son of one of the revolutionary founders of the Communist state, he is married to Peng Liyuan, a popular Chinese folksinger. Their only daughter is an undergraduate at Harvard University.
Li Keqiang, 57, is currently China’s executive vice premier in charge of the economy and health care, and is set to inherit Wen Jiabao’s job as Chinese premier in March. A native of Anhui province, Li graduated from Peking University, the school that many of the student leaders of the 1989 Tiananmen protests attended. He studied law as an undergraduate and earned a PhD in economics in 1994, writing a doctoral thesis on urbanization. He rose through the ranks of the Communist Party’s Youth League, which Hu Jintao led at the time. Li served as Communist Party secretary of central China’s Henan province, where he faced criticism for his handling of an AIDS crisis that was caused by a government-run blood donation program. As the vice premier focused on the economy, Li argued that China’s growth model should shift away from investment and toward more consumption, making China’s income distribution more equitable -- or, as he put it in a 2010 speech, more “olive shaped.” Li’s brother, Li Keming, is a deputy head of China’s State Tobacco Monopoly.
Wang Qishan, 64, is currently vice premier overseeing the financial sector and is the direct counterpart to U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner, who in 2009 described Wang as China’s “definitive preeminent troubleshooter, firefighter, problem solver.” Wang got that reputation for being summoned to fix crises including the 1998 collapse of an investment company and the government’s botched response to the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome epidemic in 2003, when Beijing reported more cases than any other city worldwide. As Beijing’s mayor, he oversaw preparations for the 2008 Olympics. Wang is the only banker on the Politburo Standing Committee, having led China Construction Bank Corp., now China’s No. 2 lender, as well serving as vice governor of the People’s Bank of China, the country’s central bank. Wang is married to the daughter of Yao Yilin, one of the country’s top officials in the 1980s.
Yu Zhengsheng, 67, trained as an engineer and was formerly minister of construction. He replaced Xi Jinping as Communist Party secretary of the financial hub of Shanghai in 2007. Yu’s brother, who was a top official in China’s Ministry of State Security, defected to the U.S. in 1985. His great uncle was the defense minister under Chiang Kai-shek, China’s leader before the Communist victory in 1949, according to Cheng Li, who studies China’s elite politics at the Brookings Institution in Washington. Yu served under former General Secretary Jiang Zemin at the Ministry of Electronics Industry. He has served in top official posts across the country and entered the Politburo in 2002.
Zhang Dejiang, 66 this month, is currently Chongqing party secretary and vice premier in charge of industries including telecommunications and energy. Zhang was appointed to run Chongqing after Bo Xilai was ousted earlier this year amid a political scandal that led to his wife’s conviction for murdering a British businessman. Zhang said at the time that Bo had brought “great damage” to the Communist Party’s image. Zhang studied economics at Kim Il Sung University in Pyongyang and rose to the post of party secretary in northeast China’s Jilin province in 1995. In 1998 he took the top party post in coastal Zhejiang province and entered the Politburo in 2002, moving to take over Guangdong, China’s most populous province. He has been a vice premier since 2008.
Zhang Gaoli, who turns 66 this month, has been the Communist Party secretary of Tianjin since 2007. In Tianjin, he oversaw a surge in infrastructure spending near the municipality’s port area centered on a new financial district, Yujiapu, modeled on Manhattan. The infrastructure spending was backed by a borrowing binge, and the city’s state-owned construction companies are among the most indebted in the country. Zhang studied planning and statistics as a student and worked in the oil industry in the 1970s and 1980s in southern China. He took the top post in the industrial city of Shenzhen in 1997. Zhang became party secretary of the coastal province of Shandong in 2002, moving to the Tianjin post and membership on the Politburo in 2007.
Liu Yunshan, 65, has been minister of the Communist Party’s propaganda department since 2002, supervising the country’s television and radio stations, newspapers, book publishers and Internet companies. Liu’s career has been limited to the province of Inner Mongolia and then Beijing, where he moved up the ranks of the Communist Party’s propaganda apparatus after becoming a deputy minister in 1993. Liu moved to the minister’s job a decade ago, securing a spot in the Politburo. Liu’s son, Liu Lefei, was chairman of state-owned Citic Private Equity Fund Management Co. until earlier this year.
— With assistance by Michael Forsythe