Wed, Mar 06, 2013 - Page 9 News List

China’s next inner circle

Xi Jinping is taking power while his two predecessors, Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao, are still alive and leading powerful, opposing factions, casting him as consensus-builder rather than reformer

By Irene Jay Liu and Chris Ip  /  Reuters, HONG KONG

Factions of this kind rarely survive the death of their leader, said Jiangnan Zhu (朱江南), a Hong Kong University associate professor specializing in Chinese politics.

“Usually, when a patron dies, his followers can’t hold together for very long, and his faction will eventually fall. This was basically the case for Mao, the most powerful patron in CCP history,” Zhu said.


The Tuanpai could be the exception. It traces its origins to former Communist Youth League leader Hu Yaobang (胡耀邦), who promoted many Tuanpai officials, including Hu Jintao, during his tenure as party general secretary in the 1980s. The Tuanpai’s influence expanded under Hu when he became general secretary in 2002.

Under Hu, the number of Tuanpai leaders in top provincial posts increased from five in 2002 to 13 in 2005, and rose to 21 in 2010. Connections to the Communist Youth League are a common denominator for many figures seen as the next generation of leaders, data from Connected China shows.

Of the 14 members in the 25-member politburo eligible for another term in 2017, nine have worked in the Communist Youth League and are considered to be proteges or allies of Hu. Only five are known to have ties with Jiang.

Communist Youth League experience is even more prevalent among provincial-level party chiefs.

Provincial party leadership has become almost a prerequisite for a top leadership post. Among the 29 eligible for politburo membership next year, 19 have experience in the Communist Youth League and 11 are considered to be members of the Tuanpai faction, the data from Connected China shows.

The promotion of so many Communist Youth League members is largely credited to Hu’s protege Li Yuanchao (李源潮). As head of the Party’s Organization Department, he promoted many of his mentor’s allies.

Three of the top contenders for seats in the 2017 Politburo Standing Committee are linked to Hu Jintao — Li Yuanchao, former Guangdong provincial party general secretary Wang Yang (汪洋) and the current Guangdong party general secretary, Hu Chunhua (胡春華). If promoted, those three, along with premier-in-waiting Li, would occupy more than half of the Standing Committee seats in 2017.

“Hu Jintao has been very successful in nurturing future leaders amongst the fifth and the sixth generation from the youth league,” said Willy Lam (林和立), an expert on Chinese history and politics at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

However, the Tuanpai also has a problem, he added. Except perhaps for Wang Yang and Li Yuanchao, who are seen as experienced leaders, few other leaders from the Tuanpai have a strong track record.


Xi’s power base is in the military, where a number of princelings have made their careers, Lam said.

The data from Connected China shows Xi has far fewer ties to other contenders in the party and the government. Of the 14 members of the politburo eligible for another term in 2017, only two are known to have close ties with Xi — Li Zhanshu (栗戰書) and Xu Qiliang (許其亮). As director of the Central Committee General Office, Li is Xi’s chief of staff. Xu is a military official seen as unlikely to be promoted to the Politburo Standing Committee.

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