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The Chinese flag. (DAVID GRAY/REUTERS)
The Chinese flag. (DAVID GRAY/REUTERS)

Handicapping the leadership race in China Add to ...

Current position: Head of the Organization Department, which controls appointments large and small within the Communist Party, from provincial governors to newspaper editors

Politics: Seen as close to Mr. Hu, he helped the President expand the influence of the CYL but has princeling ties (his father was vice-mayor of Shanghai in the 1960s) that make him a potential a bridge between factions on the next Standing Committee.



Background: A graduate of the Military Engineering Institute in the northeastern city of Harbin, rose through the party ranks in the coastal city of Qingdao, served as construction minister in Beijing, and then party secretary in Hubei province.

Current post: Since 2007, Communist Party chief in Shanghai

Politics: Another princeling, he is seen as close to Mr. Jiang (also a former Shanghai party boss), but will serve just one term (the party’s unofficial retirement age is 68). His rise was slowed by the 1985 defection of his older brother, a senior intelligence officer, to the United States.



Background: New standard-bearer for the left wing, studied economics at Kim Il-sung university in North Korea, often takes on difficult assignments requiring a firm hand (being the party’s “iron-fisted enforcer” according to the South China Morning Post).

Current post: Vice-premier and party chief of the southwestern city of Chongqing since the murder-and-corruption scandal that felled predecessor Bo Xilai (once a near certainty to make the committee) this year.

Politics: Another one-term appointment, he is considered a princeling (his father was a general in the People’s Liberation Army) and is particularly close to Mr. Jiang. Criticized while governor of Guangdong in 2003 for trying to suppress news of the SARS crisis, he also made waves in Chongqing by forcing civil servants who had served Mr. Bo pledge loyalty to him.



Background: Former teacher from Shanxi province; built his career in Inner Mongolia and spent seven years as a reporter at the official Xinhua news agency before rising to the Propaganda Department. Recently, he has overseen the international expansion of CCTV television and the China Daily newspaper.

Current post: Director of the Propaganda Department

Politics: Having risen through

the CYL, he is seen as an ally of Mr. Hu, but also was close to Mr. Bo, the fallen leftist, and, as an opponent of political reform,

has led government efforts to control conversations on the Internet.


Background: Like Mr. Hu, a native of Anhui who came up in the CYL; studied political economics and was Chongqing party boss ahead of Mr. Bo before moving to Guangdong.

Current post: Communist Party chief for Guangdong province

Politics: Mr. Wang is considered the leading reform candidate – the ideological heir to Premier Wen Jiabao. Under his rule, Guangdong has developed the freest media in China and even some independent (if closely monitored) non-governmental organizations. He surprised many with his laissez-faire handling of last year’s village uprising in Wukan, which saw protesters demand – and get – the right to elect local leaders. Given his age, he could still be a contender in five years if passed over this time.



Background: Trained economist born in coastal Fujian province; former party secretary for the southern city of Shenzhen and northeastern Shandong province.

Current position: Communist Party chief for Tianjin (a metropolis near Beijing)

Politics: He rarely says anything in public, so Mr. Zhang is hard to decipher. Considered close to the incoming leader (he frequently consulted Mr. Xi’s father while in Shenzhen), he is thought to be backed by the Jiang faction, keen to block the rise of Wang Yang.



Background: The only woman among the 25 members of the Politburo; former chemistry major from Beijing’s Tsinghua University who once headed the United Front Work Department, which strives to improve the party’s image abroad.

Current post: State councillor

Politics: A close ally of Mr. Hu, she has focused on building China’s ramshackle public health and education systems while in the Politburo. If elevated, she would end a Standing Committee tradition as an exclusive boys club that began with the creation of the Communist Party of China.



Background: A native of Hubei and perhaps the party’s fastest-rising star; at 16, finished first in the national university-entrance exam and, in 2008, became China’s youngest provincial governor in Hubei. Has also spent significant time in Tibet.

Current post: Communist Party chief for Inner Mongolia

Politics: Dubbed “Little Hu” for his link to the President, he is an extreme long shot for the Standing Committee,but will likely join the Politburo, and be on track for promotion in 2017 and maybe even the presidency in 2022.

Mark MacKinnon is The Globe and Mail’s Beijing correspondent.

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