John L. Thornton China Center

Sun Chunlan 孙春兰

One of China's Top Future Leaders to Watch

  • 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)

Personal and Professional Background

Sun Chunlan was born in 1950 in Raoyang County, Hebei Province. She joined the CCP in 1973. She received an undergraduate education from the Anshan Institute of Iron & Steel Technology[1] in Anshan City, Liaoning Province (1965-69); studied in a correspondence program in Economic Management in the Department of Economics of Liaoning University in Shenyang, Liaoning Province (1989-91); and attended a one-year training program at the Central Party School in Beijing (1992-93). She also completed a master’s/MBA degree program (on a part-time basis) in Liaoning University in Shenyang (1992-95). She began her career as a worker in a watch factory in Anshan (1969), worked as a party official in the factory (1971-74), served as the secretary of the Chinese Communist Youth League (CCYL) of the Light Industry Bureau of Anshan City (1974-78), and served as a manager and party official of the Anshan Textile Factory (1978-91). She served as head of the Women’s Association of Anshan City (1988-91), deputy head of the Workers’ Union of Liaoning Province (1991-93), head of the Women’s Association of Liaoning (1993-94), head of the Workers’ Union of Liaoning (1994-97), and deputy party secretary of Liaoning (1997-2005). She served as party secretary of Dalian, Liaoning (2001-05), and served as first secretary of the All-China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU) (2005-09). Sun was elected as an alternate member of the 15th Central Committee (1997) and of the 16th Central Committee (2002), and she was made afull member of the 17th in 2007, Sun has served as Fujian party secretarysince 2009 and Fujian Provincial People’s Congress chairwoman since 2010.

Family and Patron-Client Ties

Sun Chunlan comes from a humble family, and her father was a worker. Sun is widely considered a protégé of Hu Jintao, but it is unclear where and when Sun established her client relationship with Hu. Their political connection likely occurred or was consolidated during her study at the Central Party School in the early 1990s, when Hu served as president of the school.[2] According to some Chinese observers, Sun has effectively constrained the influence and power of Bo Xilai in Dalian after she took over the post of party chief in the city from 2001 to 2005.

Political Prospects and Policy Preferences

Sun Chunlan has a number of advantages for further promotion. First, as the only female provincial chief in the country, she is often considered the top choice among woman leaders for the new membership of the post-2012 Politburo. Second, her leadership experiences in running an important province (Fujian) and a major city (Dalian), as well as her tenure as first secretary of All-China Federation of Trade Unions, have prepared her for even more important posts in the national leadership. Third, her low-profile personality and her toughness and political skill in removing Bo Xilai’s protégés in Dalian even before Bo’s downfall show her leadership capacity and political nerve. She may follow the career path of the current Politburo member Wang Zhaoguo, serving as the first vice chair of the National People’s Congress. She could also be transferred to serve as a party chief in another major province or city (such as Tianjin) —a position that is entitled to a Politburo seat. Sun will most likely continue Hu Jintao’s socioeconomic policies.


[1] The name prior to 2002; known since 2006 as Liaoning University of Science and Technology, in Anshan City, Liaoning Province.

[2] Hu Min 扈 悯, Hu’s Five Golden Flowers (胡锦涛的五朵金花; Hong Kong: Beiyunhe Press, 2012), pp. 159-163.

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