Sun Zhengcai, the youngest member of the Chinese Communist Party’s new Politburo, was appointed party boss of Chongqing, the southern Chinese municipality led by Bo Xilai until his ouster over a murder scandal.
Sun, 49, replaces Zhang Dejiang, who was named to the party’s ruling Politburo Standing Committee in a once-a-decade leadership transition that concluded last week, the Xinhua News Agency reported today. Zhang took over the municipality in March after Bo was removed and later stripped of his party membership over a case in which his wife was convicted of murdering a British businessman.
Formerly agriculture minister and party secretary in Jilin province, Sun may become a top leader in the country’s political transition a decade from now, according to political analysts including Bo Zhiyue, senior research fellow at the National University of Singapore’s East Asia Institute. Sun got a spot on the 25-member Politburo in the transition, which saw Vice Premier Xi Jinping appointed general secretary of the Communist Party.
Bo’s wife was convicted in August of murdering British businessman Neil Heywood, and Bo himself now faces charges that he abused his power, made “severe mistakes” and bore “major responsibility” in his wife’s murder case, according to the official Xinhua News Agency.
When he took over Chongqing, Zhang said Bo had brought “great damage” to the Communist Party’s image and that the country must deepen reform of its legal system. Based on his No. 3 rank in the new Politburo Standing Committee, Zhang is slated to become head of the National People’s Congress, China’s legislature, though no announcement has been made.
Chongqing is one of four municipalities that report directly to the central government. The others are Beijing, Tianjin and Shanghai. The municipalities’ party secretaries are typically drawn from the Politburo.
Yu Zhengsheng, also named to the Politburo Standing Committee, stepped down as Shanghai party secretary today, Xinhua said. He was replaced by Politburo member Han Zheng, it said.
Hu Chunhua, 49, joins Sun as the youngest members of the new Politburo by at least six years. The two could succeed China’s new leaders in 2022, said Joseph Cheng, a political science professor at the City University of Hong Kong.
Sun spent a year studying in the U.K. and has an advanced degree in agriculture, according to Cheng Li, a senior fellow at the Washington-based Brookings Institution. In 2002, Sun was named party secretary of Beijing’s Shunyi area, where many of the city’s international schools and western-style villas are located.