John L. Thornton China Center

Liu Yunshan 刘云山

One of China's Top Future Leaders to Watch

Liu Yunshan 

  • 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)

Personal and Professional Background

Liu Yunshan was born in 1947 in Xinzhou City, Shanxi Province (though some official biographers say that Liu was born in Tumd Right Banner, Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region and that Xinzhou was his ancestral home). Liu joined the CCP in 1971. He started his career as a teacher in rural Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region (AR) (1964–68), and was a “sent-down youth” (manual laborer in the countryside) in a rural commune in the region during the Cultural Revolution (1968–69).[1] He received an undergraduate education (on a part-time basis) from Jining Teachers College in Jining City, Inner Mongolia AR (1964–68) and took courses in public administration (on a part-time basis) at the Central Party School (1989–1992). He was a clerk in the Propaganda Department of the CCP Committee of the Tumd Right Banner, Inner Mongolia AR before joining the Inner Mongolia AR branch of the Xinhua News Agency, where he was a reporter and division head (1975–1982). Liu was deputy party secretary of the CCYL Committee in Inner Mongolia AR (1982–84), then deputy head and head of the Propaganda Department of the CCP Committee of Inner Mongolia AR (1984–87). He was promoted to secretarygeneral of the CCP Committee of Inner Mongolia AR (1987–1991), party secretary of Chifeng City (1991–92), and deputy party secretary of Inner Mongolia AR (1992–93). In 1993, Liu was transferred to Beijing where he served as deputy director of the CCP Propaganda Department (1993–2002). Liu was first elected to the Central Committee as an alternate member at the 12th Party Congress (1982).

Family and Patron-Client Ties

Liu advanced his career largely through the CCYL and is widely considered a tuanpai official.[2] He formed close ties with Hu Jintao when both of them worked at the CCYL. Liu Yunshan’s son, Liu Lefei, is married to Jia Liqing, the daughter of Jia Chunwang, another heavyweight tuanpai leader, who served as minister of State Security, minister of Public Security, and the head of the Supreme People’s Procuratorate. Liu Lefei is currently CEO of the China International Trust and Investment Corporation (CITIC) Private Equity Funds Management Co., Ltd, a strategic onshore private equity investment platform of the CITIC Group and CITIC Securities.

Political Prospects and Policy Preferences

As a two-term Politburo member, Liu is likely to be promoted to the Politburo Standing Committee (PSC). He will most likely succeed Li Changchun and become the new “propaganda tsar” of the country. But the possible reduction of the number of PSC seats from nine to seven may undermine Liu’s chance for promotion. It is expected that he will continue the policy of tight control over media and the internet.


[1] The “sent-down youth” (插队知青) refers to young, educated urban dwellers who left their cities to serve as manual laborers in the countryside during the Cultural Revolution.

[2] Tuanpai (团派) literally means “league faction,” referring to the officials who advanced their careers through the ranks of the Chinese Communist Youth League (CCYL), especially those officials who worked at the provincial and national levels of the CCYL leadership in the early and mid-1980s when Hu Jintao served as its head.

Editor's Note: The profile above was prepared by the China Center's Cheng Li and originally appeared in the China Leadership Monitor.