The 'board of directors'
They walked onto the red carpet in the Great Hall of the People, eventually stopping on numbers written for them on the floor in black. China’s new leader, Xi Jinping, stood in the centre on the “1,” his premier-to-be, Li Keqiang, stopped to his left, on the “2.”
The others took their numbers in order, thus telling the world where they ranked in the new Standing Committee of the Politburo, the “board of directors” that collectively makes the big decisions in China.
As they posed for photographs, a poem written by Mao Zedong hung on the wall behind the men. Part of it read: “The bleak autumn wind comes again, but the world has changed.” How much it changed on Thursday remains to be seen.
New job: He'll become President in March. Already the head of the Communist Party and the People’s Liberation Army.
Who is he? The 59-year-old has been to the bottom of Chinese politics – seven years living in a cave after his father was purged during the Cultural Revolution – but now he’s on top. Considered a party “princeling” because his father was a famous revolutionary, he ascended through the ranks primarily by keeping his head down and making few enemies among the party’s quarrelling factions. Little is known about his politics, but he has already shown a warmer, more personable demeanour than his predecessor, Hu Jintao.
Personal touch: Married to one of China’s most famous singers, Peng Liyuan, he enjoys film and has expressed a fondess for The Godfather.
New job: He'll become Premier in March. He will take over take from Wen Jiabao, as well as his mantle as the party’s most prominent reformer. He has said the country needs to address “imbalances” in its economy, which could be read as code for both tackling China’s growing wealth gap, or breaking up some of the massive state-owned enterprises, which by some measures account for more than half of the economy.
Who is he? The 57-year-old is alone on the new Standing Committee in having taken part in, and won, an election. In 1980, he was elected to head the student assembly at Beijing University. He and Mr. Xi are the only two holdovers from the previous Standing Committee, and the only two still young enough to serve two more terms, until 2022. He is a protégé of Hu Jintao, who wanted to install him in the top job.
Personal fact: Was close to democracy advocates as a student.
New job: Undetermined. But by party rules, he will have to retire at the next national congress of the Communist Party in 2017.
Who is he? The 66-year-old is known as the party’s enforcer and problem-solver and top ally of former leader Jiang Zemin, a stalwart conservative. Dispatched to the southwestern metropolis of Chongqing in March after Bo Xilai was felled by criminal allegations, Mr. Zhang forced civil servants to swear an oath of personal loyalty to him. He kept the city running and ensured Mr. Bo’s supporters kept their heads down. He was less successful while boss of coastal Guangdong province during the 2003 SARS crisis. His initial response was to instruct the media to report that nothing was happening.
Personal fact: Seen as an arch-conservative, he studied economics at Kim Il-sung University in North Korea.
New job: Undetermined. Mr. Yu, 67, is another ally of Jiang Zemin and another leader who will have to step aside in 2017.
Who is he? Mr. Yu is a party “princeling,” the son of a famous Communist official. But the most remarkable thing about Mr. Yu’s rise is how he escaped the scandals that have followed his family. His father is best known for being the first husband of Jiang Qing, who later married Mao Zedong and helped direct the Cultural Revolution. Shanghai under Mr. Yu remained what it has long been, one of the most freewheeling and business-oriented cities anywhere.
Personal fact: His brother defected to the United States in 1985.
New job: Undetermined.
Who is he? Already one of the Communist Party’s top propagandists, the former Xinhua reporter, 65, is best known for overseeing China’s draconian Internet controls. Maybe he’s already on the job – Internet speeds in Beijing have slowed dramatically during this week’s Communist Party congress. An opponent of political reform (judging by the media he oversees), he worked closely with Hu Jintao over the past decade, although it’s believed that Jiang Zemin pushed hardest for his inclusion on the Standing Committee.
Personal fact: Leads expansion of China’s state-owned media abroad.
New job: Undetermined, but one of his responsibilities will be heading the Communist Party’s internal Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, tasked with battling endemic corruption in the party.
Who is he? Western investors nervous over the makeup of the new Standing Committee breathed a sigh of relief to see Mr. Wang included. The 64-year-old is one of the country’s top economic planners, most recently representing Beijing in the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue. His corruption-busting role is crucial but will keep him out of the economic planning role many expected him to take. The economy will instead be left to Li Keqiang, the incoming Premier. Mr. Wang is believed to have been handed the anti-corruption job to make sure there was no confusion about who spoke for China on economic policy.
Personal fact: “A wicked sense of humour,” says former U.S. treasury secretary Henry Paulson.
New job: Undetermined. Like all but Mr. Xi and Mr. Li, he’ll have to retire in 2017 to make room for a new generation of leaders.
Who is he? Precious little is known about the 66-year-old. He kept a low profile for the past five years while doing a competent job running the port city of Tianjin. His allegiances are also something of a mystery. Seen as another protégé of Jiang Zemin, he nonetheless carefully credited his successes in Tianjin to the leadership of Hu Jintao. Reportedly also close to Xi Jinping’s father, Xi Zhongxun.
Personal fact: Spent his early career in the oil industry. When asked by the foreign press earlier this year about his possible future on the Standing Committee, he said he was a “poor kid” working to “serve the people wholeheartedly.” Analysts said he was differentiating himself from offspring of former party leaders.