The dominance of Jiang Zemin’s political allies in the current Politburo Standing Committee has enabled Xi Jinping, who is a protégé of Jiang, to pursue an ambitious reform agenda during his first term. The effectiveness of Xi’s policies and the political legacy of his leadership, however, will depend significantly on the political positioning of Xi’s own protégés, both now and during his second term.
The second article in this series examines Xi’s longtime friends—the political confidants Xi met during his formative years, and to whom he has remained close over the past several decades. For Xi, these friends are more trustworthy than political allies whose bonds with Xi were built primarily on shared factional association. Some of these confidants will likely play crucial roles in helping Xi handle the daunting challenges of the future (and may already be helping him now). An analysis of Xi’s most trusted associates will not only identify some of the rising stars in the next round of leadership turnover in China, but will also help characterize the political orientation and worldview of the influential figures in Xi’s most trusted inner circle.