John L. Thornton China Center

Zhang Dejiang 张德江

One of China's Top Future Leaders to Watch

Zhang Dejiang 

  • Born 1946
  • Vice premier (2008–present)
  • Politburo member (2002–present)
  • Chongqing party secretary (2012–present)
  • Full member of the Central Committee of the CCP (1997–present)

Personal and Professional Background

Zhang Dejiang was born in 1946 in Tai’an County, Liaoning Province. He joined the CCP in 1971, following his “sent-down” work period (1968–70) in Wangqing County, Jilin Province. After working in a county propaganda department (1970–72), Zhang studied Korean language at Yanbian University in Yanji City, Jilin Province (1972–75) and worked as a party official at the university (1975–78) before studying in North Korea. He received an undergraduate education in economics at Kim Il Sung University in Pyongyang, North Korea (1980). Zhang later served as vice president of Yanbian University (1980–83). He served as deputy party secretary of Yanji City (1983–85) and of Yanbian Prefecture, Jilin Province (1985–86). He later moved to Beijing, where he served as vice minister of Civil Affairs (1986–90). Zhang served as deputy party secretary of Jilin Province and concurrently as party secretary of Yanbian Prefecture (1990–95). He also served as party secretary of Jilin Province (1995–98) and party secretary of Zhejiang Province (1998–2002). Zhang was first elected to the Central Committee as an alternate member at the 14th Party Congress (1992).

Family and Patron-Client Ties

A princeling, Zhang is the son of Zhang Zhiyi, a former PLA major general, who served as deputy commander of the Artillery Force in the Guangzhou Military Region.[1] Zhang is considered to be a protégé of Jiang Zemin.[2] Their patron-client ties can be traced back at least to 1990 when Jiang first visited North Korea as general secretary of the CCP. Zhang helped prepare the trip for Jiang. Zhang’s wife, Xin Shusen, previously served as vice president of China Construction Bank and is currently secretary of the Discipline Inspection Committee of China Construction Bank. She is also a member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference.

Political Prospects and Policy Preferences

As a two-term Politburo member, Zhang is most likely to be promoted to the Politburo Standing Committee. He may remain in the State Council if either Li Keqiang or Wang Qishan moves to another leadership body, thus Zhang may be promoted to be executive vice premier. Alternatively, Zhang may serve either as secretary of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, which is responsible for party discipline and investigating corruption, or secretary of the Central Political and Legislative Committee, which is responsible for public security. Based on his previous leadership experience and policy positions in the State Council, Zhang may continue to promote policies in favor of the development of state-owned enterprises, state monopoly, and so-called indigenous innovation (economic protectionism).


[1] This is based on nonofficial and unverified sources.

[2] For more information about Zhang Dejiang’s family background and his early experiences, see Wu Ming 吴鸣 “South King” Zhang Dejiang (南天王张德江; Hong Kong: 文化艺术出版社, 2006).

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