Tag Archives: wang qishan

Fifth Generation: Who is Li Keqiang?

This is the sixth in a series of posts examining the Chinese leaders named to the Politburo Standing Committee during the 18th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party (中国共产党) that concluded November 14.  Prior installments on Zhang Gaoli here, Zhang Dejiang here, Liu Yunshan here, Yu Zhengsheng here and Wang Qishan here.

Unless something incredibly drastic happens in the coming months, Li Keqiang (李克强) seems likely to succeed Wen Jiabao (温家宝) as the premier of the government of the People’s Republic of China at the opening of the 12th People’s National Congress in March 2013. 

Along with China’s presumptive new ‘paramount leader,’ Xi Jinping (习近平), Li is one of just two of the previous nine members of the Politburo Standing Committee who remain on the committee after this week’s Congress, which concluded Wednesday.  In addition to Xi and Li, five new members joined the committee (although all are over age 64, hardly making them ‘new’).

After today, however, Li is essentially the second-most important government official in all of China, and he is expected to be a cautious reformer who’s keen on narrowing economic inequality in China and widening the social safety net.

Li, as noted, has been a member of the Politburo Standing Committee since 2007 and he’s been the PRC’s executive vice premier since 2007 as well.  He is also the youngest member, at age 57, on the committee.

He was a Party secretary in Liaoning, a province of 43 million people, that borders North Korea, from 2004 to 2007, spearheading a campaign to revitalize China’s northeast.

Previously, he served as the governor and the Party’s vice secretary of Henan province, China’s third most-populous province in the east-central heartland of the country with 94 million people, and one of the largest provincial economies in the country.  Although Henan province’s economy grew during Li’s tenure (indeed, with an emphasis on agricultural modernization that saw rural growth exceed already-high levels of province-wide growth), he also presided over a mini-scandal involving the contamination of blood that may have infected up to one million people with HIV.

A BBC profile notes that Li has attacked corruption that has plagued the Chinese government:

A US diplomatic cable released by whistle-blowing website Wikileaks described Mr Li as “engaging and well-informed”.

In a private conversation with the US ambassador in 2007, he called China’s economic figures “unreliable” and warned that official corruption was the biggest cause of public resentment, according to the leaked cables.

That puts him at odds with Wen, whose family allegedly holds over $2.7 million assets, as reported in the past weeks by The New York Times.  Hu’s speech kicking off the congress, too, emphasized the need to stem corruption in China’s official ranks.

Unlike many of the newly appointed members of the Politburo Standing Committee who are protégés of former president Jiang Zemin (江泽民), however, Li is more a protégé of outgoing current president Hu Jintao (胡锦涛), whom he encountered in the leadership of the Party’s youth league in the 1980s.  With Hu stepping back from active government, however, Li may have few natural allies with a relatively older and conservative group now comprising the Politburo Standing Committee.

Cheng Li, director of research and a senior fellow at the John L. Thornton China Center, surmises that although Li lacks Wen’s political charisma, he may well be central to many key policy issues over the next decade:

Based on his previous work and the populist policy agenda he shares with his mentor Hu Jintao, Li’s hot-button policy issues will include increasing employment, offering more affordable housing, providing basic health care, balancing regional development, and promoting innovation in clean energy technology.

Interestingly, Li’s wife, Cheng Hong, is a professor of English language and literature in Beijing, and Li himself is fluent in English, just as fellow Politburo Standing Committee member Wang Qishan.

Like Xi, he spent time during the Cultural Revolution working in rural China, on a farm, and like Xi, Li also has a doctorate — in Li’s case, in economics.

It’s official: China’s new Politburo Standing Committee

As predicted last week: the new Politburo Standing Committee of the Chinese Communist Party is as follows: 

  • Xi Jinping (习近平), who is expected to become the president of the People’s Republic of China, the general secretary of the Party and ‘paramount leader’, and a ‘princeling’ whose father was a Party dignitary;
  • Li Keqiang (李克强), who is expected to become premier;
  • Zhang Dejiang (张德江), a longtime hand who has served as Party secretary in Guangdong province and most recently, replaced disgraced Party figure Bo Xilai as Party secretary in Chongqing municipality — and also a ‘princeling’;
  • Yu Zhengsheng (俞正声), Party secretary in Shanghai municipality and a princeling as well;
  • Liu Yunshan (刘云山), director of the Party’s propaganda department (i.e., in charge of censorship and Internet restriction as well);
  • Wang Qishan (王岐山), a vice premier for economic, energy and financial affairs, and expected to play a major, reformist role in economic policy in Xi’s government; and
  • Zhang Gaoli (张高丽), currently the Party secretary of Tianjin municipality, and a former official in Shenzhen’s special economic zone.
 Suffragio‘s profiles of Xi and Li will come shortly, but in the meanwhile, you can read all about the five new members by clicking the links above.

The Politburo Standing Committee has been reduced from nine members to just seven.  Interestingly, the five new members (Xi and Li were already members) are relatively old — and so old that they will not be eligible for re-appointment in 2017 at the next National Congress because each will be older than the 67-year age limit for members of the committee.

Both Zhang Gaoli and Zhang Dejiang, as well as Yu Zhengsheng are firmly protégés of former president Jiang Zemin (江泽民), who preceded current president Hu Jintao (胡锦涛), who is stepping down to make way for Xi.

Left out are two key Hu allies: Li Yuanchao, currently director of the Party’s organization department, and Wang Yang, Party secretary in Guangdong province and perhaps the most notable advocate for political reform.

Liu Yandong, the only woman serving on the Politburo, also failed to make the cut.

As has been predicted in recent days, Xi will become the general secretary of the Party and will also immediately assume the chairmanship of the CPC Central Military Commission.

Xi is currently speaking to the press now, and his speaking style surely seems much more relaxed and expressive than Hu’s.

Fifth Generation: Who is Wang Qishan?

This is the fifth in a series of posts examining the Chinese leaders expected to be named to the Politburo Standing Committee during the 18th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party (中国共产党) that kicked off November 8.  Prior installments on Zhang Gaoli here, Zhang Dejiang here, Liu Yunshan here and Yu Zhengsheng here.

Of all the potential new members of the Politburo Standing Committee, no one has a more assured spot than Wang Qishan (王岐山), who is expected to be the economic policy supremo of the next generation of leadership of the People’s Republic of China.

The only question is whether he’ll be elevated to executive vice premier under the likely new PRC premier, Li Keqiang (李克强), which had seemed likelier earlier in the summer and autumn, but now seems more uncertain, according to party sources.

The Congress concluded on Wednesday, with the Politburo Standing Committee members to be named today or tomorrow.

Wang, age 64, has served as the vice premier for economic, energy and financial affairs since 2007, when he became a Politburo member as well.

Previously, from 1989 to 1997, he was vice governor, then governor of the China Construction Bank, one of the world’s largest banks and indeed one of the world’s largest corporations.  As vice governor of Guangdong province in 2007, he was instrumental in the liquidation of the Guangdong International Trust and Investment Company, which, according to Robert Lawrence Kuhn in How China’s Leaders Think, signaled to the world that China was serious about developing market mechanisms that could bring discipline to the financial sector.

As such, he developed keen ties with former leader Jiang Zemin (江泽民), but his real patron among the older leadership is Jiang’s former premier, Zhu Ronghi (朱镕基), who, before his elevation to the premiership in 1998, served as vice premier and as the governor of China’s central bank (Wang served a brief stint as vice governor there as well).

Wang served as the Party chairman of Hainan province — the tropical island at the south of the Chinese mainland that stylizes itself as China’s Hawaii — from 2002 to 2003.  Hainan is, itself, an interesting story of Chinese internal growth — formerly part of Guangdong province until 1988, China’s leaders separated Hainan as its own province and designated it a ‘special economic area.’  Despite being seen as something of an economic backwater for centuries, its economy has grown in leaps and bounds, even by Chinese standards, in the past decade, and China hopes to transform it into an international tourism destination within the next decade.

He thereupon served as the mayor of Beijing from 2003 to 2007 and handled much of the preparation for the city’s hosting of the 2008 Summer Olympics.

Kuhn reports that Wang is a humorous and sophisticated rising star:

When the Olympics was approaching, a distinguished American financier asked for [Wang’s] business card.  “You won’t need my card,” Wang, then Beijing mayor, said with a smile. “If the Olympics is successful,” he joked, “I’ll be too high to help you — and if it’s not successful, I won’t have a phone!”

Wang, perhaps more than Li, China’s current ‘paramount leader,’ president and Party general secretary Hu Jintao (胡锦涛) or the expected new Chinese leader, Xi Jinping (习近平), is at ease with the international media — check out his interview with U.S. secretary of state Tim Geithner and Charlie Rose.  So Wang will likely have a major role to play in U.S. foreign relations as well, especially given the key economic issues involved in the U.S.-China relationship.

Named to the Time 100 in 2009, Wang was greeted with glowing praise from former U.S. treasury secretary Henry Paulson: Continue reading Fifth Generation: Who is Wang Qishan?

Fifth Generation: Who is Zhang Gaoli?

This is the first in a series of posts examining the Chinese leaders expected to be named to the Politburo Standing Committee during the 18th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party (中国共产党) that kicked off November 8.

With the apparent finalization of the seven members (reduced from nine) of the new Politburo Standing Committee, it appears that Zhang Gaoli (张高丽) has made the cut, and indeed, Zhang typifies the ‘new’ faces of the so-called ‘fifth generation’ of China’s leadership — neither incredibly new nor incredibly liberal.

Zhang, age 66, would be among the oldest of the Standing Committee’s new members and is a protégé of former president Jiang Zemin (江泽民).  Although Zhang is expected to be a strong voice for continued economic reform, he’s not exactly a liberal reformer in the style of Wang Yang, the Party secretary in Guangdong who has been relatively lax about censorship and restrictions on political speech.

What does stand out about Zhang’s record, though, is that he’s been at the forefront of China’s economic wave in three different positions in three urban hot spots on China’s eastern coast over the past 15 years — so much so that Zhang could emerge as the new executive vice premier, essentially the lead economics policymaker in China — it’s thought that he and Wang Qishan (王岐山) are in competition for the role.

Currently, Zhang currently serves as the Party secretary in Tianjin municipality — along with Beijing, Shanghai and Chongqing, Tianjin is one of four municipalities that is essentially governed like China’s other provinces.  Tianjin, just north of Beijing, has long been a key transportation hub on eastern China’s coast and, with 11.1 million people, China’s fourth largest city — to put it in perspective, Tianjin has just a handful more people than Chicago and New York combined.  As Party secretary, Zhang has been instrumental in developing Tianjin’s Binhai New Area — a new economic zone along the coast that aims to replicate the Pudong New Area in Shanghai, and by all accounts, is succeeding at breakneck speed, and has already surpassed Pudong in terms of GDP.

In many ways, his ascent parallels the ascent of China’s emergence as a global economic power, with all the positive and negative attributes that brings — admirers point to his fervor for liberalizing China’s economy, but critics decry debt-financed public-sector spending on misguided infrastructure:

All this debt-fuelled investment in trophy projects has certainly resulted in rapid headline growth rates, and clearly it has boosted Zhang’s career. But how much of it will ever generate an economic return is doubtful. The handful of analysts who have examined Tianjin’s finances in detail warn of a massive bad debt explosion in the making….  As party boss in Tianjin, Zhang has proved himself an ardent proponent of China’s investment-at-all-costs growth trajectory.

That is exactly the model economists say Beijing must now reject if it is to avoid the dreaded middle-income trap and sustain its development over the next 10 years.

Unfortunately, if Zhang does indeed succeed to the economic policy hot-seat next week, it looks as if China’s chances of a successful rebalancing away from debt-funded investment and towards growth powered by private consumption will be severely diminished.

Perhaps more fundamentally, however, Zhang made his mark as the Party secretary of Shenzhen from 1997 to 2002.  Shenzhen is a special economic zone adjacent to Hong Kong — it was essentially opened up to free-market policies by Deng Xiaoping in the 1980s and it was one of the first experiments in the great transformation of China from a Maoist communist economy one into a ‘market socialist’ economy.  Continue reading Fifth Generation: Who is Zhang Gaoli?

Unveiling the PRC’s new Politburo Standing Committee members

In advance of the 18th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party (中国共产党), set to begin November 8, the South China Morning Post printed Friday what it believes will be the list of the seven members of the most elite body in Chinese policymaking: the Party’s Politburo Standing Committee. The list has been corroborated by other news sources, and while not final, seems very likely to be the seven set to be appointed at the Congress.

The Standing Committee, expected to be reduced from nine to just seven members, is drawn from the larger (~25 members) Politburo, which itself is drawn from the ~300-member Central Committee of the Party.

If the reports are accurate, the Standing Committee will include the following members:

  • Xi Jinping (习近平), a member of the Standing Committee since 2007 and the current vice president of the People’s Republic of China, is widely expected to replace Hu Jintao as China’s ‘paramount leader,’ general secretary of the Party and, later in March 2013, as PRC president.  Xi is a ‘princeling,’ one of a group of current Chinese political leaders whose fathers were also senior Party leader during the first decades of Communist rule in China.  His father, Xi Zhongxun, was purged during the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s.  Xi previously served as the Party secretary of Zhejiang province (essentially, Shanghai’s hinterland on the south-central coast of eastern China) and then of Shanghai municipality in 2007 until becoming vice president.
  • Li Keqiang (李克强), also a Standing Committee member since 2007 and the PRC’s executive vice premier, is widely expected to replace Wen Jiabao as China’s premier in March 2013.  He served as Party secretary in Liaoning  province from 2004 to 2007.  He’s seen as a Hu protege, but will have a hard time following Wen, who remains perhaps the most charismatic and genuinely popular Party leader within the PRC today.
  • Wang Qishan (王岐山), a vice premier for economic, energy and financial affairs and a Politburo member since 2007, is seen as one of the most capable up-and-coming Chinese leaders.  Notably, he’s also seen as a proponent of further liberalization of China’s economy, additional fiscal reforms, and further foreign development and investment.  He headed the China Construction Bank in the 1990s, took over as the Party chairman of Hainan province (the tropical island at the south of the Chinese mainland) from 2002 to 2003 and served as mayor of Beijing from 2003 to 2007 before his appointment as vice premier.
  • Zhang Dejiang (张德江), a vice premier for energy, telecommunications, and transportation and a Politburo member since 2002, like Wang, is a protege of former PRC president Jiang Zemin, Hu’s predecessor, and like Xi, is also a ‘princeling.’ Zhang has a long career in Chinese politics — he was Party secretary of Jilin province (in China’s northeast, bordering North Korea and Russia) from 1995 to 1998 under Jiang, Party secretary of Zhejiang province from 1998 to 2002, Party secretary of Guangdong province (the largest province in China, and the home of Guangzhou and the Pearl River valley, where much of China’s amazing export growth has taken place in the past two decades) from 2002 to 2007, during the worst of the SARS crisis, and most recently, since March 2012, the Party secretary of Chongqing municipality following the removal of disgraced Chinese leader Bo Xilai.
  • Yu Zhengsheng (俞正声), currently the Party secretary of Shanghai municipality and a Politburo member since 2002, is also a princeling, and was very close to former leader Deng Xiaoping as well as to Jiang.  He was the PRC’s minister of construction from 1998 to 2001, Party chair of Hubei province in central China from 2002 to 2007, and thereupon became Party secretary of Shanghai.
  • Liu Yunshan (刘云山), director of the Party’s propaganda department and a Politburo member since 2002, who will likely remain in charge of propaganda and censorship.  Certainly no princeling, Liu rose up through the Party’s youth league.  His elevation to the Standing Committee marks a victory for the more conservative elements of the Party.
  • Zhang Gaoli (张高丽), currently the Party secretary of Tianjin municipality and a Politburo member since 2007, and yet another Jiang protege.  Zhang rose to prominence as the Party secretary in Shenzhen from 1997 to 2002 — Shenzhen is the special economic zone adjacent to Hong Kong that emerged as one of the PRC’s few early free-market zones, and Zhang’s experiences there make it likely that he’ll be among the Standing Committee members most likely to support further economic reform.  He thereupon became Party secretary of Shandong province, just south of Beijing on east-central coast of China, from 2002 to 2007, and was thereafter appointed to his current post in Tianjin.

If the line-up is confirmed later this month, it will mark a significantly conservative leadership with respect to most reforms, although potentially much more open to further economic reforms.  These seven Standing Committee members would be seen as much closer to Jiang than to the ‘fourth generation’ leaders, Hu and Wen. Continue reading Unveiling the PRC’s new Politburo Standing Committee members