Baidu Inc. Chairman Robin Li, China’s third-richest man, and Yu Zhengsheng, No. 4 in the Communist Party hierarchy, were named to the country’s top political advisory body as a new generation of leaders prepares for power.
Yu is the only member of the Politburo’s seven-man standing committee to be appointed as one of the 2,237 members of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, indicating he will replace Jia Qinglin as chairman of the body next month. Delegates are usually appointed for a five-year term.
The new list of members was published by the official Xinhua News Agency on Feb. 2 as the nation prepares to hold its annual session of parliament next month that will complete a once-a-decade leadership transfer. Xi Jinping, who took over from Hu Jintao as general secretary of the Communist Party in November, is set to consolidate his power by taking over as president while Li Keqiang, No. 2 in the party hierarchy, will replace Wen Jiabao as premier.
“The CPPCC has been quite disappointing,” said Willy Wo-Lap Lam, an adjunct professor of history at the Chinese University of Hong Kong who specializes in Chinese politics. “There were hopes that it would evolve into a kind of upper house legislature like the House of Lords in the U.K. but basically it’s still a talking shop and a means for the Party to dole out rewards.”
Membership is a badge of honor and status, offering good networking opportunities for those who join, while also sending a “subtle message” that people must behave and not embarrass the party, Lam said.
The CPPCC advises the National People’s Congress, the country’s legislature, and has committees that include economic affairs, population, and ethnic and religious affairs. It is made up of delegates from political parties, quasi-government organizations such as the All-China Federation of Industry and Commerce, business people and independent members with no political affiliation.
The first annual session of the new national committee of the CPPCC will start on March 3 and the NPC will begin two days later.
Robin Li, 44, whose Chinese name is Li Yanhong, is also co-founder and chief executive of Baidu, the nation’s biggest search engine. He has a current estimated net worth of $8 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. Li’s appointment was confirmed by Baidu spokesman Kaiser Kuo in an e-mail on Feb. 2.
Mo Yan, 57, winner of the 2012 Nobel Prize in Literature also becomes a member of the CPPCC national committee along with Yao Ming, 32, former basketball player with the Houston Rockets. Hong Kong movie star Jackie Chan’s Chinese name Cheng Long also appears on the list. Phoenix New Media reported his appointment on Jan. 31.
People’s Bank of China Governor Zhou Xiaochuan and Commerce Minister Chen Deming become new members of the national committee, a further indication that they will leave their current posts. Their appointments are a traditional “career” move for retired ministers, Lam said.
Ling Jihua, formerly the top aide of Hu Jintao, was also appointed to the CPPCC’s national committee. He was replaced as head of the office that oversees security for the country’s top leaders and took over the United Front Work Department, which handles relations with non-party organizations, according to a Xinhua report on Sept. 1.
Yu, former Communist Party secretary of Shanghai, the country’s financial center, is certain to take over from Jia Qinglin as chairman of the CPPCC, Lam said. He is unlikely to “rock the boat,” said Lam. “He is not a particularly proactive politician but he’s a middle-of-the-roader who is acceptable to most factions.”
Li Shufu, the founder of China’s first private carmaker Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Co., Yang Yuanqing, Lenovo Group Ltd.’s chairman and chief executive officer, and Li Xiaolin, chairman and chief executive officer of China Power International Development Ltd. and the daughter of former Premier Li Peng, are among those reappointed to the committee.
Billionaire Liu Yonghao, chairman of New Hope Liuhe Co., China’s biggest poultry supplier, was among the names omitted from the list. Hu Deping, the son of late Communist Party chief Hu Yaobang, was also dropped, a move Lam said was expected due to his age and as the party tries to bring in younger members.
“Due to his special status as the son of such a liberal icon, his departure will be sorely missed and it’s very doubtful there will be another person who could fill his shoes,” Lam said. In November, Hu Deping called on leaders to pursue political and economic changes, writing in the Economic Observer newspaper that China’s problems threatened the nation’s healthy development, violated people’s rights and undermined the party’s ability to govern.