John L. Thornton China Center

Yu Zhengsheng 俞正声

One of China's Top Future Leaders to Watch

Yu Zhengsheng 

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

Personal and Professional Background

Yu Zhengsheng was born in 1945 in Shaoxing City, Zhejiang Province, and joined the CCP in 1964. He received an undergraduate education in ballistic missile automatic control from the Department of Missile Engineering at the Harbin Institute of Technology (1963–68). Yu started working as a technician in several radio factories in Hebei Province (1968–1975) before he joined the Research Institute for the Promotion and Application of Electronic Technology under the Fourth Ministry of Machine-Building Industry, where he served as a technician, engineer, and assistant chief engineer (1975– 1982). He was promoted to deputy director in 1982, after which he was transferred to the Ministry of Electronics Industry (MEI) where he served as head of the Department of Microcomputer Management, and later the MEI deputy director of planning (1982–84). Subsequently, Yu served as deputy party secretary and mayor of Yantai City, Shandong Province (1985–89), mayor and party secretary of Qingdao City, Shandong Province (1987–1997), and vice minister and minister of construction (1997–2001). Yu was first elected to the Central Committee as an alternate member at the 14th Party Congress (1992).

Family and Patron-Client Ties

A princeling, Yu has an extraordinary family background.[1] His grandfather’s brother, Yu Dawei, served as defense minister under Chiang Kai-shek. Yu’s father Huang Jing (Yu Qiwei) was the ex-husband of Jiang Qing, who was later married to Mao Zedong, and Huang served as party secretary and mayor of Tianjin in the early 1950s. Yu Zhengsheng’s brother, Yu Qiangsheng, served as bureau chief of China’s Ministry of State Security and defected to the United States in the mid-1980s. Yu is widely considered a protégé of both Deng Xiaoping and Jiang Zemin. Yu worked at the China Welfare Fund for the Handicapped, headed by Deng Pufang (Deng Xiaoping’s son) in the mid-1980s. Yu also formed strong patron-client ties with Jiang Zemin at the Ministry of Electronics Industry in the early 1980s when Jiang was in charge of the ministry. Yu’s wife, Zhang Zhikai, is the daughter of Zhang Zhenhuan, a major general who served as deputy director of the General Logistics Department of the PLA.

Political Prospects and Policy Preferences

As a two-term Politburo member, Yu is a strong candidate for the next Politburo Standing Committee, but is at a disadvantage in terms of age. He may be eliminated as a candidate for the next PSC if the leadership decides to make this supreme decisionmaking body younger, consisting primarily of fifth-generation leaders. Yu may also be eliminated due to the abovementioned complicated (and even controversial) family background, and his possible involvement in some alleged major corruption cases, especially if the CCP leadership decides to adopt a “more candidates than seats” election for the next PSC.[2] If Yu obtains a seat on the PSC, he will most likely take the position as chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC). He could also become executive vice premier if current vice premier Wang Qishan moves to another leadership body, with the dual purposes of balancing Li Keqiang’s power and strengthening the State Council’s authority. Based on his previous leadership experiences and recent public speeches, Yu’s hot-button policy issues may include the promotion of the private sector, urban development, legal development, and social reform to promote confidence-building and mutual trust in society.


[1] For more information about Yu Zhengsheng’s family background and his early experiences, see Gao Yuanpeng 高原鹏, Yu Zhengsheng and His Family (俞正声和他的家族; New York: Mirror Books, 2009); Wang Yaohua 王耀华, Competition among Provincial Chiefs (诸侯争锋; New York: Mirror Books, 2009), pp. 133–196; and Gao Xin 高新, The New Leaders Who Run China (领导中国的新人物; New York: Mirror Books, 2003), Vol. 2, pp. 624–658.

[2] The two most important speculations regarding his involvement in corruption cases were one linking him to former minister of railways Liu Zhijun, and another involving a “shared mistress.” See Jiang Weiping 姜维平, “What Does Liu Zhijin’s Downfall Mean?” (刘志军落马说明了什么?), China in perspective (纵览中国), February 13, 2011,; and Luo Changping, “Public nepotism” (公共裙带), Caijing magazine, No. 4, February 14, 2011.

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