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China's new Communist Party leaders

Profiles of China's new leader and the six other members of the new Politburo Standing Committee, the country's most powerful body.
Yu Zhengsheng
Yu Zhengsheng

Xi Jinping: China’s ‘princeling’ new leader

With a revolutionary hero for a father and a pop star for a wife, China's new leader Xi Jinping has impeccable political pedigree but has given few clues about how he will govern the country.

Mr Xi, 59, has risen to the top of the secretive party by presenting himself as a compromise candidate – acceptable to outgoing leader Hu Jintao, still-influential former president Jiang Zemin, and other power-brokers.

But since he has largely kept his policy leanings to himself, how he will address China's challenges remains unclear.

Mr Xi has avoided revealing any leanings that might threaten his status as a consensus candidate, backing non-controversial policies and positions during his rise up the party ranks, said China political analyst Willy Lam.

"He's a team player. He played by the rules of the party. He's not a risk-taker. He doesn't want to take risks that might jeopardise his career."

He is seen as a cautious and skilful politician, able to navigate the factional divides of the party hierarchy.

Mr Xi, a slightly plump figure typically seen on state television with a deadpan expression, rose up the party ranks mainly on China's fast-growing east coast.

As the son of the late Xi Zhongxun, a respected Communist elder, he is part of the "princeling" generation – the privileged offspring of hallowed figures who played key roles in the revolution that brought the party to power in 1949.

Despite this pedigree,Mr  Xi was "sent down" to the Chinese countryside to live and work alongside peasants, as were many young educated Chinese during Mao Zedong's 1966-76 Cultural Revolution.

His father fought alongside Mao and served as vice-premier until he fell in one of Mao's political purges, then was rehabilitated under pragmatic former top leader Deng Xiaoping.

While labouring in the poor northern province of Shaanxi, Mr Xi joined the Communist Party and in 1975 moved to Beijing to study at the prestigious Tsinghua University.

He oversaw some of China's most economically dynamic and reform-minded areas, the eastern provinces of Fujian and Zhejiang, before briefly taking the top post in the commercial hub of Shanghai in 2007 -- earning a reputation as a supporter of economic reforms and an effective manager.

He created a stir during a 2009 speech in Mexico by scoffing at "foreigners with full bellies and nothing to do but criticise our affairs" – many Chinese harbour resentment against the West – but he has unusually deep US links for a Chinese leader.

As part of a research trip in 1985 he spent time in Muscatine, Iowa, deep in the Midwest, and paid his host family a return visit in February while on an official visit to the United States, where his daughter is a student at Harvard.

A reputed basketball fan, Mr Xi also took in an NBA game, while a diplomatic cable released on whistle-blower site WikiLeaks recounted a 2007 conversation between Clark Randt, the then US ambassador to China, and Mr Xi that revealed the future president as a big fan of US World War II films.

The cables described Mr Xi as pragmatic yet ambitious, willing to tilt with the political winds to get ahead.

They said he was uncorrupted by money yet with a sense of political entitlement, feeling that fellow "princelings" like him "deserve to rule China".

His extended family have business interests worth hundreds of millions of dollars, according to an investigation by Bloomberg News earlier this year, which said there was no indication of wrongdoing on his or their part.

Mr Xi's public persona is given a sprinkle of glamour by his wife Peng Liyuan, who holds the rank of army general and sings songs praising the party.

The six other members of the new Politburo Standing Committee, the country's most powerful body:

Li Keqiang

A bureaucrat with an unusually easy smile for China's colourless Communist officials, Mr Li moves up in the party hierarchy and is due to be named prime minister in March, tasked with running the world's second-largest economy.

Mr Li, 57, has held top posts in Henan and Liaoning provinces and was promoted to the Standing Committee in 2007. Long linked to the outgoing president, Hu Jintao, Mr Li speaks English and has a law degree from Peking University.

Zhang Dejiang

Born in November 1946, Mr Zhang was installed as party secretary of the mega-city of Chongqing in February to replace the disgraced Bo Xilai, whose fall amid scandal added to the usual factional uncertainty ahead of this year's reshuffle.

An economics graduate of Kim Il-sung University in North Korea, Mr Zhang has been vice premier in charge of energy, telecommunications and transportation since 2008.

Believed to be a protégé of Jiang Zemin, he has been party boss of the economically booming provinces of Zhejiang and Guangdong.

Yu Zhengsheng

Mr Yu, 67, has been party secretary of Shanghai since 2007, when he replaced the promoted Xi Jinping, the new general secretary of the party. A previous party secretary of Hubei province, Mr Yu studied at the Harbin Military Engineering Institute.

The son of Yu Qiwei, a party elder better known as Huang Jing, Mr Yu is considered a Communist "princeling" and reportedly enjoyed good ties with Deng Xiaoping, respected late architect of China's economic resurrection three decades ago, and is friends with Mr Deng's son, Deng Pufang.

Liu Yunshan

Mr Liu, 65, has been the party propaganda chief since 2002. A former reporter for the state news agency Xinhua in Inner Mongolia in the mid-1970s, Mr Liu became vice party secretary for the region in 1992. Widely viewed as a conservative.

Wang Qishan

Mr Wang, 64, is currently vice premier. He is a former Beijing mayor, Guangdong boss, and vice governor of the People's Bank of China.

An English speaker, he represents China in economic talks with the United States and European Union, whose leaders have praised him for his efforts to help advance economic ties.

He is reportedly married to the daughter of a standing committee member from the Deng Xiaoping era, and is often grouped with the princeling faction.

Zhang Gaoli

Born November 1946, Mr Zhang has been party secretary of Tianjin municipality since 2007. Trained as an economist, he spent decades in the southern business hub of Guangdong, rising to provincial vice party secretary.

Ran the booming city of Shenzhen, next to Hong Kong, in the late 1990s and later served as party secretary of Shandong province in eastern China. Reportedly a protégé of Jiang Zemin and close to Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka-shing.

Updated: November 16, 2012 04:00 AM



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