Five of the 24 men who make up the Chinese Communist Party's most important decision-making group, the Politburo, are connected to the world of technology and science. This is critical as China faces a decade of tech and scientific war with the United States.
Chinese President Xi Jinping with his trusted men of the Politburo of the Chinese Communist Party.
The Chinese National Party Congress concluded with the appointment of a new Politburo which would be responsible for major decision making and executive functions of the Chinese Communist Party. The Politburo or the Political Bureau is the premier decision making body that deliberates over issues of legislative and executive importance. Therefore, it becomes very imperative to understand the men who belong to this body and the role they will play in devising the foreign and domestic policy.
This year’s Party Congress was important in many ways, while Xi Jinping succeeded in consolidating power in his hands, he also appointed a Politburo Standing Committee with his allies and loyalists to reduce room for dissent within. However, there is one another reason why this new Politburo stands out. This new Politburo includes five members (out of 24) with professional and formal training in engineering and information technology. This is an important aspect to consider with regards to China’s venture into the information technology sector and its impact on the overall development in the military and economic sector as well. In this context, let’s have a look at who these five men are and how they can influence the trajectory of Chinese growth.
The presence of five members whose background is related to technology and science is important to note because an era of unprecented battle on technology and science between China and the United States has begun. The US has recently passed laws that cripple development of semiconductor chips in China. These are critical for the development of a futuristic digital economy (the kind that China runs and hopes to develop exponentially). These developments came after years of complaints not only from the US but from other parts of the world including Europe and Canada about Chinese espionage of technology. This puts greater emphasis than ever on China being able to develop homegrown technologies.
The current Party Chief of Xinjiang holds a doctorate from the Harbin Institute of Technology. HIs strong academic and professional background in science and technology allowed him to earn a place as the Deputy Head of the China Academy of Space Technology and also as the General Manager of the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation. After becoming a part of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party in 2012, Ma Xingrui climbed the ladder to become the Vice Minister of the Department of Industry and Information Technology. He has also served as the Director of the National Space Administration as well as the Director of the State Administration for Science, Technology and Industry for National Defence. In a major achievement Ma Xingrui held the command for China’s first successful lunar surface mission, Chang’e 3.
The former Chinese aerospace technology scientist now wears the hat of the party chief of Xinjiang. His position and his membership to the Politburo is significant because it provides a greater push to the aim of achieving high end technological development in terms of aerospace technology as well as defence infrastructure. It could have an impact on the increasing involvement of 'space diplomacy' in the international arena.
Another aerospace engineer within the Politburo is the current Party Chief of Zhejiang, Yuan Jiajun. He also holds a Doctorate in Engineering and has served as the Vice Chairman of the International Astronautical Federation. Yuan Jiajun has also received his education from the German Aerospace Center after which he returned to China to work on various space expedition missions as the Vice President of the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation. Much like Ma Xingrui, Yuan Jiajun has also worked on the lunar space missions and also on the new developments over the Chinese-Russian Cooperation regarding exploration of Mars.
These ambitious space missions in development are very significant to building Chinese technological infrastructure to make it more self-reliant in the future. Giving more space to Aerospace scientists and people with a technological fervour in the national decision making bodies is a major step in this direction.
The third important person in our list is Liu Guozhong, the current Party Chief of Shaanxi. He also holds a Graduate Degree from the Harbin Institute of Technology as well as a major in the artillery system fuse design and manufacturing from the Nanjing Institute of Technology. It is important to understand that Liu Guozhong has received formal training in artillery system designing which may include military equipment, guns as well as rocket artillery. Now, this falls in line with China’s new aggressive military approach as well as the goal of achieving advanced military modernisation. Liu Guozhong is expected to play a major role in this regard as a member of the Politburo.
The Party Chief of Shandong in the current Politburo, Li Ganjie is a graduate from the Institute of Nuclear Technology, Tsinghua University. Li Ganjie has majored in nuclear reactor engineering and safety during his master’s degree in engineering. Li Ganjie’s professional portfolio is an important one for China at present. This is because the Nuclear posture and nuclear technology forms a major part of the international strategic and diplomatic environment. Although China does not have an offensive nuclear posture politically, its aggressive conventional military approach makes it all the more relevant for China to have Nuclear Scientists as a part of the decision making process. Politically, Li Ganjie has been a part of the Communist Party Secretariat and hence does have an influence of his own.
Chen Jining was accorded the portfolio of the Mayor of Beijing in the new Politburo. Chen graduated from the department of Civil and Environmental Engineering from the Imperial College London. He also completed the graduate programme in environmental systems analysis. He currently holds a doctorate degree in engineering. Chen Jining’s background as an environmental scientist is very important in China’s developmental agenda as its national goal of achieving complete carbon neutrality takes shape. China has, over the period, worked towards increasing its forest cover and China’s President Xi Jinping formally declared that climate action is going to be an active part of the party strategy in the coming future. In this regard, Chen Jining’s position in the Politburo becomes significant.
The elevation of these five engineering and technology professionals to high ranking portfolios within the Politburo is an important step towards creating an infrastructure of self-reliance and self-sufficiency in technology. These aims have been at the core of the present Chinese foreign policy agenda. A special mention also to the Politburo Standing Committee member Ding Xuexiang who also holds a master’s degree in science and a professional title of professor level engineer.
These appointments would provide a much needed push to Chinese technological prowess and competency that would further reflect in China’s interactions with the rest of the world. Diversifying the Politburo to include engineers from the fields of aerospace, nuclear technology as well as civil and environmental technology could prove to be a very pragmatic approach in improving the defence, military, aeronautical as well as environmental technology.