Politburo in China Gets Four New Members
BEIJING, Monday, Oct. 22 — The Communist Party announced a new leadership lineup on Monday morning that anoints two future leaders of the country and modestly enhances the authority of President Hu Jintao.
The reshuffle promotes four officials to the nine-man Politburo Standing Committee, the country’s top ruling body, including two provincial leaders expected to inherit the posts of party general secretary and prime minister in five years’ time.
Three former members of the Standing Committee, including Vice President Zeng Qinghong, who did not owe their positions to Mr. Hu’s patronage, were officially retired. That likely increases Mr. Hu’s ability to rally support within the governing party for his domestic and international priorities.
But the new lineup also represents a delicate balance of interests. Mr. Hu has had to accommodate other powerful current and retired officials, including his predecessor as top leader, Jiang Zemin, as well as Mr. Zeng, considered the most influential party leader after Mr. Hu. As such, the reorganization fell short of the shakeup that Mr. Hu had sought prior to the party’s 17th National Congress, which concluded Sunday, people told about the party’s internal deliberations said.
Only one of the new appointees to the Standing Committee, Li Keqiang, party secretary of Liaoning Province, clearly owes his rise in the Chinese hierarchy to Mr. Hu. Three others, including Xi Jinping, party secretary of Shanghai and the man now set to inherit the top posts in China in 2012, are consensus choices favored by Mr. Jiang and Mr. Zeng as well as Mr. Hu, the people said.
The reorganization underscores the degree to which China’s authoritarian system, which in an earlier era heeded the directives of Mao and later Deng Xiaoping, is now governed by consensus among a more diversified Communist Party elite.
Mr. Hu, 64, now entering his second and final term as party general secretary, head of state and military chief, has sought to set broad principles for managing the country’s frothy and unruly economy and increasingly diverse society, but has seen only some of his ideas translated into concrete action.
It remains to be seen if the new leadership will help Mr. Hu implement his directives, which include reducing the country’s gaping income gap, addressing an environmental crisis, fighting corruption and improving social security and health care.
The nine members of the reorganized Politburo Standing Committee emerged in hierarchical order to greet the press and a live television audience at the Great Hall of the People late Monday morning. The brief, stilted greeting, a kind of Communist coronation ceremony that adheres to a longstanding ritual of succession, offers the Chinese people their first glimpse of their country’s most powerful officials, who are appointed in secretive backroom negotiations.
Mr. Hu remains the top-ranking official, followed by Wu Bangguo, a holdover who heads the party-run legislature, and Wen Jiabao, who continues for another term as prime minister. The fourth-ranking official remains Jia Qinglin, who runs the body that coordinates the party’s relations with other political, ethnic and commercial interests. Li Changchun, the party’s propaganda czar, will also continue for another term, assuming the fifth-ranking position.
The changes begin at the sixth rank. Mr. Xi will assume day-to-day command of party affairs as the new head of the party’s secretariat, the position held by Mr. Zeng. He is followed immediately by Li Keqiang, who assumes the seventh-ranking post and will also serve as executive vice prime minister.
While there was no formal announcement of succession in 2012, the arrangement strongly suggests that Mr. Xi will inherit Mr. Hu’s positions as China’s No. 1 leader, while Mr. Li is in line to replace Mr. Wen as prime minister, both after five years.
The two final posts are also held by newly promoted officials. He Guoqiang, considered an ally of Mr. Zeng, will now supervise the party’s internal disciplinary body. Zhou Yongkang, China’s police chief, takes the final Standing Committee post, and will likely oversee both the police and the judicial system. Mr. Zhou has close ties to both Mr. Jiang and Mr. Zeng.
The roster adheres precisely to a list submitted secretly to the party elite at the opening of the congress 10 days ago.
During the extended bargaining for positions in the Standing Committee over the summer and into the fall, Mr. Hu had sought to reduce the number of members from nine to seven, several people told about the deliberations said. He had also worked for years to position Mr. Li as his successor. He did not succeed on either count, though it remains possible that Mr. Li could eventually become the No. 1 if Mr. Xi stumbles or loses support.
The decision to retain nine slots reflects the delicacy of balancing diverse factions within the ruling party. They include Mr. Hu’s own Communist Youth League group, the Shanghai-linked band of officials considered closer to Mr. Jiang, and the “princeling” group, the offspring of party leaders from an earlier era, who have tended to look to Mr. Zeng for leadership.
Of the new Standing Committee members, only Mr. Li rose up through the Communist Youth League and therefore owes his rise mainly to Mr. Hu.
Mr. Xi, who headed Zhejiang Province before taking over control of Shanghai after a big corruption scandal there, is the son of a former high-ranking party official, Xi Zhongxun. As such, he has been viewed as part of the princeling group linked to Mr. Zeng. But he would not have become the party’s anointed successor without strong support from both Mr. Jiang and Mr. Hu as well.
Both Mr. Xi, 54, and Mr. Li, 52, were born after the Communist Party came to power in 1949. They rose through the ranks during the years of “reform and opening” under Deng Xiaoping, and they are considered moderate, pro-business leaders.
Mr. Xi has a reputation for fostering the party’s connections to private business interests and for working closely with foreign investors.
Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, who came to know Mr. Xi when Mr. Paulson ran Goldman Sachs, described the Chinese leader as “the kind of guy who knows how to get things over the goal line.”
Party officials and political observers informed about the party’s debate said Mr. Hu had hoped to remove two other officials, Mr. Jia and Li Changchun, who were promoted mainly by Mr. Jiang. The fact that they remained in high positions reflects the resilience of Mr. Jiang’s role as the dominant party elder, the people said.
Mr. Jia presided over Fujian Province in the south during one the biggest corruption scandals in history of Communist Party rule, when several officials close to Mr. Jia, as well as his wife, were investigated for receiving large gifts from a corrupt businessman.
Mr. Jia survived the scandals largely because of support from Mr. Jiang. His longevity on the Politburo Standing Committee has been viewed within the party as a test of Mr. Hu’s ability to consolidate power in his second term, as well as his avowed commitment to fight corruption.