A Biographical and Factional Analysis of Chinese Communist Party’s Post-2012 Politburo

This essay offers data about the new Politburo of the Chinese Communist Party—the 25 highest-ranking leaders in the party, government, and military in present-day China. This biographical data includes distributions of age, gender, and birthplace; educational and occupational credentials; bureaucratic portfolio and career patterns; and political affiliations and factional backgrounds. Norms of elite selection can be induced from such data, which allows a broad-based quantitative and qualitative analysis of the changes within the top leadership. Findings include the ascendancy of leaders with experience as provincial party secretaries, a swift decline of technocrats, and the appearance of a new form of the factional balance of power. The essay concludes with a preview of the leading contenders for the next Politburo and its supreme Standing Committee.

With the conclusion of both the 18th Party Congress of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and the 12th National People’s Congress (NPC), China’s new top leaders in the party, government, and military have assumed their official positions with a pronounced leadership portfolio. The most important of these new leaders serve on the 25-member Politburo.

What does the composition of the post-2012 Politburo tell us about selection criteria, demographic trends in elite circulation, and strengths and weaknesses of these new leaders? What are the challenges for China’s political institutionalization, including the degree of political nepotism and various forms of patron-client ties? Does the new Politburo maintain the factional balance of power that has characterized Chinese elite politics since the end of the strongman era in the mid-1990s? Who are the rising stars in the sixth generation of leadership and how do they differ from preceding generations? Based on an analysis of the current Politburo, who within the large pool of power contenders will likely serve on the next Politburo? Who are the leading candidates for seats on the next Politburo Standing Committee (PSC)? This essay aims to shed valuable light on these important questions.

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