John L. Thornton China Center

China's Top Future Leaders to Watch

The composition of the new Politburo, including generational attributes and individual idiosyncratic characteristics, group dynamics, and the factional balance of power, will have profound implications for China’s economic priorities, social stability, political trajectory, and foreign relations. To a great extent, these leaders’ political position and policy preferences are often shaped or constrained by their personal experience, leadership expertise, factional affiliation, and bureaucratic portfolio. 

In anticipation of China's leadership transition, the China Center's Cheng Li profiled 25 possible members of the next Politburo, focusing on the following three aspects: personal and professional background, family and patron-client ties, and political prospects and policy preferences.

UPDATE: On November 15, 2012, seven individuals were named to the Politburo Standing Committee. These new members are highlighted in red below.

Editor's Note: The profiles below originally appeared in the China Leadership Monitor.

Xi Jinping 

Xi Jinping 习近平

  • Born 1953
  • PRC vice president (2008-present)
  • Vice chairman of the Central Military Commission (2010-present)
  • Politburo Standing Committee member (2007-present)
  • Executive member of the Secretariat (2007-present)
  • President of the Central Party School (2007-present)
  • Full member of the Central Committee of the CCP (2002-present)

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Li Keqiang 

Li Keqiang 李克强

  • Born 1955
  • Executive vice premier (2008-present)
  • Politburo Standing Committee member (2007-present)
  • Full member of the Central Committee of the CCP (1997-present)

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Wang Qishan 

Wang Qishan 王岐山

  • Born 1948
  • Vice premier (2008-present)
  • Politburo member (2007-present)
  • Full member of the Central Committee of the CCP (2002-present)

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Li Yuanchao 

Li Yuanchao 李源潮

  • Born 1950
  • Director of the CCP Organization Department (2007-present)
  • Politburo member (2007-present)
  • Member of the Secretariat (2007-present)
  • Full member of the Central Committee of the CCP (2007-present)

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Zhang Dejiang 

Zhang Dejiang 张德江

  • Born 1946
  • Vice premier (2008-present)
  • Politburo member (2002-present)
  • Chongqing party secretary (2012-present
  • Full member of the Central Committee of the CCP (2002-present)

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Liu Yunshan 

Liu Yunshan 刘云山

  • Born 1947
  • Director of CCP Propaganda Department (2002–present)
  • Politburo member (2002–present)
  • Member of Secretariat (2002–present)
  • Full member of the Central Committee of the CCP (1997–present)

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Zhang Gaoli 

Zhang Gaoli 张高丽

  • Born 1946
  • Tianjin party secretary (2007–present)
  • Politburo member (2007–present)
  • Full member of the Central Committee of the CCP (2002–present)

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Wang Yang 

Wang Yang 汪洋

  • Born 1955
  • Guangdong party secretary (2007–present)
  • Politburo member (2007–present)
  • Full member of the Central Committee of the CCP (2007–present)

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Yu Zhengsheng 

Yu Zhengsheng 俞正声

  • Born 1945
  • Shanghai party secretary (2007–present)
  • Politburo member (2002–present)
  • Full member of the Central Committee of the CCP (1997–present)

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Liu Yandong 

Liu Yandong 刘延东

  • Born 1945
  • State councilor (2008–present)
  • Politburo member (2007–present)
  • Full member of the Central Committee of the CCP (2002–present)

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Ling Jihua 令计划

  • Born 1956
  • Director of CCP General Office (2007–present)
  • Politburo member (2002–present)
  • Member of Secretariat (2007–present)
  • Full member of the Central Committee of the CCP (2007–present)

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Meng Jianzhu 

Meng Jianzhu 孟建柱

  • Born 1947
  • State councilor (2008–present)
  • Minister of Public Security (2007–present)
  • Full member of the Central Committee of the CCP (2002–present)

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Hu Chunhua 

Hu Chunhua 胡春华

  • Born 1963
  • Inner Mongolia party secretary (2009–present)
  • Chairman of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region People’s Congress (2010–present)
  • Full member of the Central Committee of the CCP (2007–present)

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Wang Huning 王沪宁

  • Born 1955
  • Member of Secretariat (2007–present)
  • Director of the Central Policy Research Center of the CCP Central Committee (2002– present)
  • Full member of the Central Committee of the CCP (2002–present)

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Guo Jinlong 

Guo Jinlong 郭金龙

  • Born 1947
  • Beijing Municipality party secretary (2012–present)
  • Full member of the Central Committee of the CCP (2002–present)

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Zhang Chunxian 张春贤

  • Born 1953
  • Xinjiang (Uygur) Autonomous Region party secretary (2010-present)
  • Xinjiang Military Region Party Committee First party secretary (2010-present)
  • Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps first political commissar (2010-present)
  • Full member of the CCP Central Committee (2002-present)
  • Deputy head of Central Coordinating Group for Xinjiang Affairs (2011-present)

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Wang Min 王珉

  • Born 1950
  • Liaoning Province party secretary (2009-present)
  • Chairman of the Liaoning Provincial People’s Congress (2010-present)
  • Full member of the CCP Central Committee (2007-present)

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Sun Zhengcai 孙政才

  • Born 1963
  • Jilin Province party secretary (2009-present)
  • Chairman of the Jilin Provincial People’s Congress (2010-present)
  • Full member of the CCP Central Committee (2007-present)

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Zhou Qiang 周强

  • Born 1960
  • Hunan Province party secretary (2010-present)
  • Chairman of the Hunan Provincial People’s Congress (2010-present)
  • Full member of the CCP Central Committee (2002–present)

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Liu Qibao 刘奇葆

  • Born 1953
  • Sichuan Province party secretary (2007-present)
  • Chairman of the Sichuan Provincial People’s Congress (2008-present)
  • Full member of the CCP Central Committee (2007-present)

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Sun Chunlan 孙春兰

  • Born 1950
  • Fujian Province party secretary (2009-present)
  • Chairwoman of the Fujian People’s People’s Congress (2010-present)
  • Full member of the CCP Central Committee (2007-present)

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Ma Wen 马馼

  • Born 1948
  • Deputy secretary of the CCP Central Discipline Inspection Commission (2004-present)
  • Minister of Supervision (2007-present)
  • Full member of the CCP Central Committee (2007-present)

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Chang Wanquan 常万全

  • Born 1949
  • Member of the Central Military Commission (2007-date)
  • Director of the PLA General Armaments Department (2007-date)
  • Full member of the CCP Central Committee (2002-date)
  • Manned Space Project commander-in-chief (2008-date)

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Xu Qiliang 许其亮

  • Born 1950
  • Member of the Central Military Commission (2007-date)
  • Commander of the PLA Air Force (2007-date)
  • Full member of the Central Committee of the CCP (2002-date)

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Wu Shengli 吴胜利

  • Born 1945
  • Member of the Central Military Commission (2007-present)
  • Commander of the PLA Navy (2006-present)
  • Full member of the CCP Central Committee CCP (2007-present)

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Notes 

The author thanks Eve Cary, Paul Cavey, John Hoffman, John Langdon, Jordan Lee and Yinsheng Li for their helpful comments on earlier versions of these profiles. Chinese leaders’ biographical information and career experiences are primarily based on the official Chinese media entity Xinhua News Agency, http://www.news.cn/politics/leaders/index.htm.

For a more detailed discussion of the role of and the selection process for the Politburo Standing Committee, see Cheng Li, “The Battle for China’s Top Nine Leadership Posts,” Washington Quarterly, Vol. 35, No. 1 (Winter 2012): 131–145; and Li Cheng, The Road to Zhongnanhai (通往中南海之路; New York: Mirror Books, 2012).