The Chinese Communist Party has unveiled its new Politburo Standing Committee (PSC), a seven-member group that represents the apex of political power in China.
Led by the CCP’s Secretary General and China’s President Xi Jinping, the elite committee, which was appointed following a week-long Congress of the governing party, is the highest decision-making body in the country.
All of the committee’s members are Xi’s proteges and allies. They are Zhao Leji and Wang Huning, who return from the previous committee, and newcomers Li Qiang, Cai Qi, Ding Xuexiang and Li Xi.
“The new Politburo Standing Committee confirms decisively that Xi has consolidated power at the top of the Communist Party to an extent unseen since the Mao era,” Neil Thomas, a senior China analyst at Eurasia Group, told AFP news agency, referring to China’s founding leader Mao Zedong.
“Xi has installed allies onto all seats of the Communist Party’s top decision-making body, allowing him to dominate the political system for the foreseeable future.”
Below are the men who will rule China for the next five years, in order of seniority.
The 69-year-old was re-elected as general secretary of the Communist Party, paving the way for him to secure a third term as Chinese president at the government’s annual legislative sessions next March.
Xi abolished the presidential two-term limit in 2018, paving the way for him to govern indefinitely.
First appointed as the CCP’s general secretary in 2012, Xi has consolidated power through a sweeping anti-corruption campaign, reasserted the role of the state sector in the economy, expanded the military and led crackdowns on civil rights in Hong Kong and Xinjiang.
His third term is being dubbed a return to one-man rule after a period of more collegial decision-making.
The party chief of Shanghai and a Xi confidant, Li has been promoted to number two in the party hierarchy, making it likely that he will be named China’s premier at next March’s legislative sessions.
It would be an unusual appointment since Li, unlike most past premiers, does not have experience as a vice premier in China’s state council managing central government portfolios.
The 63-year-old rising star’s prospects had also appeared in doubt after he bungled a harsh two-month lockdown of Shanghai earlier this year that saw residents left lacking access to food and medical care.
This “showcases to everyone that loyalty rather than popularity is the key for your promotion”, tweeted Yang Zhang, an assistant professor at American University in Washington. “The disaster of Shanghai Lockdown did not stop Li’s elevation precisely because he followed Xi’s order despite all criticism.”
Li is viewed as one of Xi’s favourites, having served as the leader’s chief of staff while he was party boss of the affluent Zhejiang province between 2004 and 2007.
The 65-year-old former head of the party’s top anti-corruption watchdog has remained on the PSC, being promoted to number three in the party hierarchy.
Zhao’s former position as head of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, the party’s much-feared body for policing corruption and other malfeasance, made him a key figure in Xi’s campaign to bring party members in line. That anti-graft effort has at times been characterised as a vehicle for eliminating opponents and instilling loyalty.
Zhao is now in line to head the National People’s Congress, the largely ceremonial legislature that meets in full session just once a year and whose deliberations are mainly carried out behind closed doors by its smaller standing committee.
The experienced administrator has been party secretary of two provinces and a Politburo member since 2012.
Longtime party political theorist Wang Huning has been a member of the PSC since 2017 and moves up from the fifth position, reflecting his status as one of Xi’s most important advisers.
Dubbed the “brains behind the throne”, the 67-year-old former university professor has devised ideologies for three current and former Chinese presidents, and is the architect of Xi’s “China Dream” slogan, as well as the country’s more assertive foreign policy.
In one of his most famous works, America Against America, he argued for the United States’s inevitable downfall due to wayward cultural values like decadence and individualism.
Current Beijing party chief Cai Qi is seen as a close political ally of Xi due to his time working under the Chinese leader in the provinces of Zhejiang and Fujian.
As Beijing party chief, the 66-year-old brought the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics in on time and with relatively little disruption and has carried out Xi’s “zero-COVID” strategy without causing the sort of massive upheaval seen in Shanghai.
The Fujian native is considered one of the party’s leading intellectuals, having earned a doctorate in political economy from Fujian Normal University, while also proving himself a competent manager.
He now becomes the head of the General Secretariat, managing the day-to-day affairs of the party, according to a member list released by the Xinhua news agency.
The 60-year-old’s promotion to the PSC has been widely expected by analysts.
As head of the General Office since 2017, Ding Xuexiang held one of the most important bureaucratic positions in the party, with sweeping control over information and access to officials. Ding is often among the few officials attending sensitive meetings alongside the general secretary, earning him the sobriquets “Xi’s alter ego” and “Xi’s chief of staff”.
Ding has never served as a provincial-level party boss or governor, making his appointment effectively a reward for his loyalty to Xi.
The pair became close while Ding served in the Shanghai party committee – Xi was Shanghai’s top party boss in 2007-2008 – and he moved to Beijing to work as Xi’s personal secretary in 2013.
The party chief of economic powerhouse Guangdong province, Li Xi’s appointment to the PSC was also widely anticipated by observers.
Li, 66, is regarded as a confidant of Xi, having known him since the 1980s after working as secretary for a close ally of Xi’s father, revolutionary leader Xi Zhongxun. He also built up a power base in Shaanxi, Xi’s ancestral province.
He has now been confirmed as head of the powerful Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, the party’s powerful anti-graft watchdog, according to a list released by Xinhua.