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China’s new leaders

November 15, 2012

China’s once-in-a-decade power transition was formalized on Thursday with 59-year-old Xi Jinping taking over from President Hu Jintao as the general secretary of the ruling Communist Party. Together with Li Keqiang, who was ushered in as Prime Minister, in succession from Wen Jiabao they will be assisted by five technocrats in the Standing Committee, forming the new apex of power in China. The seven leaders, which will rule the CCP and thereby China will effectively take over from the present leadership in March 2013.

Inchin Closer analyses each leader and his impact on India and the world as they were presented at Beijing’s Great Hall of the People.

Xi Jinping: The new party leader is seen as a pro-market reformer and a staunch believer in the military and party power. The son of Xi Zhongxun, who was Vice Premier under Mao and was purged during the Cultural Revolution, Xi, favoured by former President Jiang Zemin is a princeling who has spent significant time in China’s rural lands that are now her economically vibrant provinces. Xi is also credited for the success of the Beijing Olympics in 2008. As former military leader, he is expected to play a primary part in resolving the border issue with India. His western education is further expected to guide him in seeing China’s international relations in a modern, young and border perspective.

Li Keqiang: The next premier, Li, 57, is a protege of outgoing President Hu Jintao. A lawyer from Peking University, Li, is expected to bring order to the chaos that currently controls China. Known to be a tough economic administrator, coordinator and organiser, Li ran two important industrial provinces, and as vice-premier his portfolio includes health reforms, energy and food safety. While neither, Xi, nor Li have visited India, an early visit to their neighbor will bode well for bilateral ties.

Zhang Dejiang: A vice premier who was called on to run the mega-city of Chongqing after the ouster of the ambitious but tainted Bo Xilai, Zhang is seen as a capable, low-key administrator. The son of a former army general, Zhang, 66, ran two economic powerhouse provinces and oversaw safety issues in recent years as a vice-premier. A Korean speaker, Zhang studied economics at North Korea’s Kim Il Sung University and is an ally of party elder Jiang Zemin. Zhang was vice premier in charge of industry and transport during last year’s railway corruption crisis.

Yu Zhengsheng: Yu, 67, is a member of the red elite, but with a problematic family history. His brother, an official in the secret police, defected to the U.S. in the mid-1980s. Yu’s pedigree helped salvage his career. His father was the ex-husband of a woman who later married Mao Zedong. A missile engineer by training, Yu has run the financial hub of Shanghai since 2007. His family connections to patriarch Deng Xiaoping kept his name in the running for promotion to the top leadership.

Liu Yunshan: As head of the party’s Propaganda Department for the past 10 years, Liu has tightened controls over domestic media even as he encouraged big state media to expand overseas to purvey the government’s line. Liu, 65, rose through the ranks in Inner Mongolia. He has a foot in each of two political camps. He started his career in the Youth League, outgoing President Hu Jintao’s power base, but in the past decade also served a conservative ideology czar who was a staunch supporter of party elder Jiang.

Wang Qishan: A technocrat with deep experience in finance and trade issues, Wang, 64, is a vice premier and a top troubleshooter. Over his career, Wang cleaned up collapsed investment firms in southern China, calmed Beijing amid the SARS pneumonia scare and, more recently, fended off U.S. pressure over China’s currency policies. Son-in-law of a now-deceased conservative state planner, Wang would bring added experience on economic policy. He is also amongst the two leaders along with Zhang Dejiang with international experience.

Zhang Gaoli: A low-key technocrat who is said to adhere to the motto “Do more, speak less,” Zhang, 66, has presided over the development boom in Tianjin and less successful efforts to turn the northern port city into a financial hub. Trained as an economist, Zhang rose through state oil-and-gas companies in the south before entering government service. He has served in a string of prosperous cities and provinces and is a protege of party elder Jiang.

— With Inputs from Associated Press

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