The Politburo is China’s top leadership body. The seven- to nine-member Standing Committee of the Politburo came into being in 1956, seven years after the founding of the People’s Republic. Standing Committee members are picked in backroom negotiations among outgoing members and a few select party elders, former President Jiang Zemin being chief among them this time, says Robert Kuhn, author of How China’s Leaders Think. Here are the candidates.

The Contender
Li Keqiang, 57


Likely to be named to the premiership. Longtime member of the Communist Youth League and next-generation leader closest to outgoing president Hu Jintao. Speaks English.

Photograph by Nelson Ching/Bloomberg

The Politburo is China’s top leadership body. The seven- to nine-member Standing Committee of the Politburo came into being in 1956, seven years after the founding of the People’s Republic. Standing Committee members are picked in backroom negotiations among outgoing members and a few select party elders, former President Jiang Zemin being chief among them this time, says Robert Kuhn, author of How China’s Leaders Think. Here are the candidates.

The Contender
Li Keqiang, 57


Likely to be named to the premiership. Longtime member of the Communist Youth League and next-generation leader closest to outgoing president Hu Jintao. Speaks English.

Photograph by Nelson Ching/Bloomberg

Who Really Runs China?

Politburo Standing Committee
Politburo Standing Committee

The Politburo is China’s top leadership body. The seven- to nine-member Standing Committee of the Politburo came into being in 1956, seven years after the founding of the People’s Republic. Standing Committee members are picked in backroom negotiations among outgoing members and a few select party elders, former President Jiang Zemin being chief among them this time, says Robert Kuhn, author of How China’s Leaders Think. Here are the candidates.

The Contender
Li Keqiang, 57


Likely to be named to the premiership. Longtime member of the Communist Youth League and next-generation leader closest to outgoing president Hu Jintao. Speaks English.

Photograph by Nelson Ching/Bloomberg
Mr. Inside
Mr. Inside

Li Yuanchao, 61

A princeling with a Communist Youth League background. Studied at Harvard. Seen as a proponent of intraparty reform. Heads powerful Organization Department.

Photograph by Nelson Ching/Bloomberg
The Firefighter
The Firefighter

Wang Qishan, 64

Now vice premier. Likely to become executive vice premier in charge of the economy. Known as an economic troubleshooter. Tackled SARS crisis in 2003.

Photograph by Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg
The Hard-Liner
The Hard-Liner

Zhang Dejiang, 65

Took over as party secretary in Chonqing after Bo Xilai’s ouster. Educated in North Korea. Close to ex-President Jiang Zemin. Strong backer of state-owned enterprises.

Photograph by Nelson Ching/Bloomberg
The Change Agent
The Change Agent

Wang Yang, 57

Party secretary of Guangdong, China’s biggest, most open province. Known as a proponent of stronger civil society. Belongs to the Communist Youth League faction.

Photograph by Zheng xun/Image China
The Princeling
The Princeling

Yu Zhengsheng, 67

Presently Shanghai’s party chief. His father was an underground Communist activist in the revolution. Likely to chair the National People’s Congress.

Photograph by Nelson Ching/Bloomberg
The Protégé
The Protégé

Zhang Gaoli, 65

Party secretary of Tianjin. Protégé of Jiang Zemin. Could gain a seat on the Standing Committee if it continues to have nine members.

Photograph by Nelson Ching/Bloomberg
The Party Man
The Party Man

Liu Yunshan, 65

Although not in the Communist Youth League, his long work in party organizations connects him more closely to that faction than Jiang’s.

Photograph by Ng Han Guan/AP Photo
The Long Shot
The Long Shot

Liu Yandong, 66

The only woman contender. Her selection would be a surprise. Daughter of a former minister of Agriculture. Part of the Communist Youth League faction.

Photograph by Nelson Ching/Bloomberg
The Boss
The Boss

Xi Jinping, 59

Expected to be named party secretary and president. May have health problems. Close to party elder Jiang Zemin and a princeling as well.

Photograph by Polaris