BEIJING (Reuters) - President Xi Jinping of China is expected to place trusted allies in the Communist Party’s apex of decision-making, the Politburo Standing Committee, during a reshuffle next week, according to multiple Chinese sources and foreign diplomats.
A key measure of Xi’s power will be how many of his allies are installed on the Standing Committee at the 19th Party Congress, which starts Oct 18. The body is currently made up of seven men and headed by Xi, who is also party chief.
At least four members are slated to retire due to an unwritten rule limiting new five-year terms to those under 68. A fifth member who is a close Xi ally, the anti-corruption tsar Wang Qishan, 69, could remain.
The new line-up will be announced at the first plenum of the Congress, around Oct. 25.
The State Council Information Office, which acts as the spokesman’s office for the cabinet and party, did not respond to a request for comment on Standing Committee candidates.
Here is the list of the most likely candidates, all men, for promotion to the Standing Committee (surnames in alphabetical order):
- Cai Qi, 61, has enjoyed a meteoric rise under Xi and is considered a shoo-in for the 25-strong Politburo after he was named party boss of Beijing in May. He is a dark horse to catapult to the Standing Committee. Cai overlapped with Xi during the latter’s 17-year stint in the southeastern province of Fujian and in the eastern coastal province of Zhejiang, where Xi was party boss from 2002 to 2007. Cai is a native of Fujian.
- Chen Miner, 57, was seen to have performed strongly as party boss of the southwestern province of Guizhou, before replacing Sun Zhengcai, the corruption-tainted party secretary of the southwestern metropolis of Chongqing, in July. Chen, a native of Zhejiang, is virtually assured at least a seat in the Politburo given his position in Chongqing. Chen was editor-in-chief of the official Zhejiang Daily from 1999 to 2001 and propaganda minister under Xi in Zhejiang in 2001.
- Han Zheng, 63, is party chief of Shanghai, China’s financial hub, where he has spent his entire career. Han was briefly promoted from Shanghai mayor after the then-party boss was sacked amid a corruption scandal in 2006. He resumed his mayoral role as Xi Jinping and then Yu Zhengsheng - currently the party’s fourth-ranked leader - became party chief. Han became Shanghai party boss in 2012.
- Hu Chunhua, 54, is the Guangdong province party chief and currently the Politburo’s youngest member. Hu spent two decades in Tibet, where he came under the wing of former President Hu Jintao, and speaks Tibetan. The two are not related. Before coming to Guangdong, he ran the vast northern region of Inner Mongolia, where he successfully defused anti-mining protests by ethnic Mongols. Hu grew up in poverty in the mountains of Hubei province in central China.
- Li Shulei, 53, was admitted to the prestigious Peking University, majoring in library science, at the age of 14. He obtained a master’s degree in modern Chinese literature and pursued a doctorate at the same school. He spent 24 years at the Central Party School, which trains cadres, serving as vice president for four years until 2014. He overlapped with Xi when the latter was president of the school, serving as his speech writer. After a two-year stint as Fujian provincial propaganda chief, Li was the top graft buster in Beijing for a year before becoming deputy to Wang Qishan in January. Li is a native of the central province of Henan.
- Li Zhanshu, 67, heads the party’s General Office. He worked his way up from Hebei province, which surrounds Beijing, and graduated from Hebei Normal University. A former governor of the northeastern province of Heilongjiang and one-time party boss of the southwestern province of Guizhou, Li is considered one of Xi’s closest advisors and often accompanies him on overseas trips. Their friendship dates back to their days working together in Hebei in the 1980s.
- Liu Qibao, 64, is China’s propaganda minister and was formerly party boss of the southwestern province of Sichuan. According to an official biography, he comes from a poor background and rose to the upper echelons of the party through the Communist Youth League. Unusually for a senior Chinese official, he engaged with the public online when he was in Sichuan. But he took a hard-line approach to tackling self-immolations and protests in ethnic Tibetan parts of Sichuan.
- Wang Huning, who turns 62 this month, was a top policy researcher for the party under former presidents Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao, a position he has kept under Xi as head of the Central Policy Research Office. Wang coined the “Three Represents” and “Scientific Outlook of Development” - respectively Jiang and Hu’s contributions to party thought, as well as the “Chinese Dream”, Xi’s own vision. Wang was formerly an academic at Shanghai’s Fudan University, specialising first in international relations and then law. He is also considered one of Xi’s closest advisors.
- Wang Yang, 62, is a vice premier with an economic portfolio and a former party chief of Guangdong province, an export powerhouse, where he served from 2007-2012. Born into a poor rural family in eastern Anhui province, Wang went to work in a factory at age 17 to support his family after his father died. Concerned about the impact of three decades of rapid development, he lobbied for social and political reform. However, he backed down after drawing criticism from party conservatives.
- Zhao Leji, 60, was named vice governor of the northwestern province of Qinghai in 1994 at age 37. Zhao spent 29 years in Qinghai before being picked by Xi to serve as party boss of Shaanxi province, in the northwest, in 2007. Both Zhao and Xi are natives of Shaanxi. Zhao heads the powerful organisation department, which oversees personnel decisions, and is a Politburo member. He has a degree in philosophy from Peking University.
Reporting by Benjamin Kang Lim and Ben Blanchard; Additional reporting by Philip Wen; Editing by Philip McClellan