Beijing, China: The key members of China’s Communist Party were determined at the national congress, which is held every five years and concluded this week. On Wednesday, members of the party’s highest body, the Politburo Standing Committee were announced, with President Xi Jinping returning for a second five-year term as party general secretary.
The head of the Communist Party since 2012 and state president since 2013, Xi Jinping has established himself as a fervent nationalist and China’s most powerful leader since Deng Xiaoping in the 1980s.
Xi Jinping has made his wide-ranging anti-corruption campaign the hallmark of his first five years in office.
Xi, 64, has worked to reassert the party’s influence across all sectors, including in schools, the media and the private businesses that are driving China’s economy. The son of a communist elder, Xi lived in a cave and performed hard labor during the Cultural Revolution before graduating from prestigious Tsinghua University and being appointed to a series of increasingly prominent provincial posts.
Xi Jinping’s first five years in power have seen China adopt an increasingly assertive foreign policy, challenging the U.S. military’s dominance in Asia. A strengthening of the domestic security services has led to what rights groups say is the worst crackdown on activists, political dissidents and the Uighur and Tibetan minority ethnic groups in decades.
With his new mandate, Xi Jinping will likely continue such measures while struggling to keep the economy growing fast enough to satisfy the demands of China’s nearly 1.4 billion citizens and their building expectations for improving their quality of life. He’s also formed a considerable cult of personality and has seen his personal political theory of “socialism with Chinese characteristics for a new era” enshrined in the party constitution.
“History looks kindly on those with resolve, with drive and ambition and with plenty of guts,” Xi said in his speech at the opening of the party congress last week. “It won’t wait for the hesitant, the apathetic or those shy of a challenge.”
The party elevated Xi Jinping’s to a mao-like (Mao Zedong) status by inserting his name and dogma into the party’s constitution alongside past leaders Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping, cementing his status as the country’s most powerful leader in decades.
That move effectively makes any act of opposing him tantamount to an attack on the party itself, largely insulating him from competition among the party’s rival factions. Xi also continues to sit atop the seven-member Politburo Standing Committee, five of whose members were newly appointed on Wednesday.
The only other returning member was Premier Li Keqiang, the party’s second-ranking official primarily responsible for overseeing the economy and leading the Cabinet. Li’s authority was widely viewed as having been undercut by Xi’s accumulation of power over all sectors of government, although his continuing presence on the committee appears to speak to the high-regard in which he is held within the party.
Premier Li Keqiang also remains in place as his No. 2, while the other five members are all newcomers taking the place of those who retired due to unwritten age limits. Premier since 2013, Li had at one time been a candidate for the top job, but was ruled out in part because of his close connection with previous leader Hu Jintao. Party elders also were reportedly concerned that he might not be tough enough to ensure the party’s hold on power and lead China into a more dominant global position.
The other members are, in order of seniority: Li Zhanshu, director of the party’s General Office who serves as Xi’s chief of staff; Vice Premier Wang Yang; Wang Huning, director of the party’s Central Policy Research Office; Zhao Leji, head of the Central Organization Department responsible for job assignments; and Shanghai party leader Han Zheng, a veteran manager of the country’s financial hub.