That Xi Jinping, General Secretary of the Communist Party of China, began his term with a call for unity underscores the leadership’s need to close ranks as it grapples with a range of challenges, from tackling corruption and bringing about more balanced growth. In recent months, the Party has been preoccupied with intense bargaining among competing groups pushing for their allies to secure top posts.
Competition for the seven posts on the Politburo Standing Committee (PBSC) — the elite inner circle which decides everything from economic matters to foreign policy — has been particularly fierce, with both outgoing General Secretary Hu Jintao and his predecessor Jiang Zemin looking to install their favoured candidates. Four of the top seven leaders are known in China as “princelings” — the relatives of former leaders who are seen as having particularly close ties to Mr. Jiang. Besides Mr. Xi (59), third-ranked Zhang Dejiang (66), the Chongqing Party Secretary; fourth-ranked Yu Zhengsheng (67), the Shanghai party secretary; and sixth-ranked Wang Qishan (64), who will head the party’s internal disciplinary body, are all princelings.
While they are by no means an organised grouping and differ both in their allegiances and outlook, their presence in the top body reflects the continuing influence of a select group of “revolutionary families” — the descendants of first-generation CPC revolutionaries who now occupy positions of influence, both in the Party and in lucrative State-run companies.
Mr. Xi’s father, Xi Zhongxun, was an influential former Vice-Premier who pushed for economic reforms. Mr. Zhang Dejiang’s father, Zhang Zhiyi was a PLA General. Mr. Yu, the Shanghai Party Chief, comes from a family with long political influence: his grandfather was a Defence Minister under the Kuomintang while his father, Huang Jing, was a senior official. Mr. Wang, who will head the internal disciplinary body, is the son-in-law of Yao Yilin, a former Vice Premier.
In contrast, second-ranked Li Keqiang (57) and fifth-ranked Liu Yunshan (65), a top propaganda official, come from less well-connected backgrounds. They both forged ties with outgoing Party Secretary Hu Jintao in the Communist Youth League.
Three other allies of Mr. Hu, who have garnered reputation as reform-minded, missed out on a spot on the PBSC. Li Yuanchao (62), head of the Organisation Department; Guangdong Party Secretary Wang Yang (57); and State Councillor Liu Yandong (67), were, however, named among the 25 members of the Politburo. Mr. Li and Mr. Wang are likely to join Mr. Xi and Mr. Li, in the PBSC in 2017, when the five other members are likely to retire. Mr. Hu did succeed in appointing his protégé — the Inner Mongolia Chief Hu Chunhua — as one of the youngest members of the Politburo.He and Jilin Party Chief Sun Zhengcai (both 49), will likely be the only members below the retirement age when Mr. Xi and Mr. Li will step down a decade later. Besides Ms. Liu Yandong — who was the only female representative in the previous Politburo — the only other woman member was Sun Chunlan, the Party Chief in Fujian province. There were no representatives from any of 55 minority groups in the 25-member body.