A quick primer on the seven men led by President Xi Jinping who now form the Politburo Standing Committee of the Chinese Communist Party. They are all loyalists of Xi Jinping who secured an unprecedented third term as head of the party and the government of China.
The seven men who now rule China,
The Chinese Communist Party National Congress ended with major changes in the governing portfolios of the party and the appointment of a new Politburo Standing Committee. This seven member Standing Committee is a part of the Chinese Politburo that primarily controls the political power in the Chinese governing infrastructure. The appointment of a new politburo standing committee marks another phase in Chinese politics, marked by more consolidation of power in the hands of Xi Jinping. This is because the newly formed committee is believed to be composed of Xi’s confidants and loyalists to his policies. Including Xi Jinping, the Politburo Standing Committee is composed of seven members of the Politburo. Let us have a brief look at the seven men in-charge of governing China.
The General Secretary of the Communist Party, Xi Jinping has successfully secured a third term in office, making him the most powerful of the Chinese leadership after Mao Zedong. He was first appointed to office in 2012 and since then he has taken steps to ensure consolidation of power in his hands through his radical domestic and foreign policies. His address to commence the National Congress made it clear that Xi was confident on securing the third term paving the way for his precedent breaking tenure as the Secretary General. Now, it is widely understood that Xi Jinping has control over all the aspects of Chinese politics but in order to eliminate the possibilities of dissent and opposition, he has ensured to pack the Standing Committee with his political allies.
Xi’s policies of suppression of the Hong Kong protests, expanding the military and its presence on the Taiwan strait and the neglect of any opposition over human rights abuses in Xinjiang are all the examples of the radical ways XI Jinping likes to deal with dissent. Appointing a set of allies in the primary governing body within the Politburo only seeks to concentrate power further in his hands, reducing the room for any opposition.
The second in order of power, stands Li Qiang who may also hold the office of the Communist Party Premier by next year. Even though he has not been a Vice Premier of the Chinese Communist Party, his loyalty to Xi Jinping and execution of Xi’s policies have paved the way for him to become the “number two” in Chinese politics at present. One of the most controversial of his decisions involved the sudden lockdown of Shanghai during a rise in Covid cases. The policy was criticised as the food and medical supplies were suddenly restricted bringing the city to a halt. However, Li Qiang made sure to implement the lockdown even amidst all the criticism because of the order of Xi Jinping. He has also served as the party chief of Zhejiang and Xi Jinping’s Chief of Staff in that capacity.
Zhao Leji’s previous political position is the Head of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, the primary anti-corruption watchdog cell in China. Leji has also stepped up the ladder by being an ally to Xi Jinping over the years. The Central Commission for Discipline Inspection has been responsible for reporting any political malfeasance or corrupt practices and being the head of his commission had put Zhao Leji at a very important space in the Chinese government. The current position of 'number three' in the Chinese power hierarchy, Zhao Leji would be to head the National People’s Congress which deliberates in secrecy and convenes once a year.
A political theorist, Wang Huning occupies the status of one of Xi’s most trusted advisors. He has primarily been in charge of devising an ideological framework of the Party leadership and has been one of the long standing members of the Politburo Standing Committee since 2017. The academician has been the architect of the “China Dream” slogan that Xi has used to unveil his more aggressive and militarily assertive foreign policy agenda. It has also been suggested that the Belt and Road Initiative was the brainchild of Wang Huning. He has been a staunch critique of the West and the American Hegemony. In one of his significant works “America against America”, he has argued that the United States would eventually fall due to the cultural decadence and individualism. Even though Wang Huning has been appointed as a loyalist to Xi, he gets along well with all the different factions within the party, making him a valued member of the Standing Committee since 2017.
The Mayor of Beijing, Cai Qi has been one of the most important allies and loyalists of Xi Jinping within the Party. Tasked with also heading the General Secretariat and dealing with the day to day affairs of the Party, Cai Qi is also credited with hosting the Beijing Olympics in 2022 and also carrying out the Zero Covid policy of Xi Jinping. He holds a doctorate in Political Economy from Fujian University.
One of the major policies of Cai Qi has been the launch of the 2017 Population Control Plan of the Capital and this led to the exodus of the low-income population of the capital.
Ding Xuexiang is the Director of the Office of the General Secretary and the Office of the President. He started his political career through a government affiliated research centre in Shanghai and has been a trained engineer. It was in 2007 that he occupied the position of Xi’s secretary and climbed the ladder to become the head of the Presidential office in 2014. One would often see Ding accompany Xi to official high level meetings and diplomatic negotiations. Without occupying any position as a party head or governor, Ding is now the Director of the General Secretary Office and this could be termed as the sole reward for his loyalty to Xi Jinping.
The seventh member of the Politburo Standing Committee, Li has succeeded Zhao Leji as the Head of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection. This watchdog commission seeks to ward away the possibility of any opposition along the party lines and hence having an ally sit at the top of this commission makes it all the more easy for Xi Jinping to suppress any dissent. Li Xi would now play an important role in this regard. He has been a long standing ally and close confidant of Xi, having known him since the 1980s.
It has to be noted that the Politburo Standing Committee is now composed of Xi’s loyalists and allies that further consolidates his power over the Chinese governance and paves the way for more hardliner domestic as well as foreign policies.