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    Greater China
     Mar 29, 2007
Page 1 of 3
China's 'fifth generation' leaders come of age
By Cheng Li

Just as the US political arena has begun to heat up in an off-election year, so too has Chinese politics become even more dynamic as the country's political clock winds its way toward the convening of the 17th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

Since 1977, the CCP has held a party congress every five years. The congress has often been an occasion for change in China's

top leadership and for new directions in domestic and foreign policies. Fervent jockeying for power among various factions on the eve of the party congress is common.

The 17th National Congress, which is scheduled to convene this autumn, will be no exception. More than 60% of the Central Committee and about half of the Politburo are expected to vacate their seats for newcomers at the congress.

An anticipated large-scale reshuffling
While the current top leaders, including President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao, will most likely remain in power for another five-year term, the new Politburo will consist of many newcomers, especially younger members who are in their 50s.

This should come as no surprise, given that the average ages of the current members of the current Standing Committee of the Politburo, the Politburo, and the Secretariat of the 16th Central Committee are 67, 66 and 65, respectively. With no exceptions, all members of these three leadership bodies are now in their 60s or 70s. [1]

Among the nine members of the Politburo Standing Committee, at least four - Luo Gan, 72, Huang Ju, 69, Wu Guanzheng, 69, and Jia Qinglin, 67 - are expected to retire. In addition there are 16 seats in the current Politburo, including an alternative member and the vacancy left by disgraced former Shanghai party secretary Chen Liangyu.

Nine of these 15 Politburo members (Chen not counted) are also 65 or above, and they will either be promoted to the Politburo Standing Committee or retire. Some Politburo members who are under 65 may also step down. In fact, all 16 current Politburo members (including Chen) were first-timers when they were appointed to this leadership body in 2002. [2] It is reasonable to anticipate that about 50% of both the 17th Politburo and its Standing Committee will be new faces.

Meanwhile, all but Liu Yunshan, 60, on the seven-member CCP Secretariat will likely vacate their seats to younger leaders. [3] Although the leadership of the State Council will not change until the 11th National People's Congress next March, the candidates for the top positions will most likely be decided at the 17th Party Congress.

Largely because of the age factor, three of four current vice premiers and all five state councilors will most likely vacate their seats through retirement or promotion. [4] This means that the leadership teams for the country's economic and financial administration, foreign policy and military affairs will largely consist of newcomers after this party congress.

A new team will likely replace current top economic and financial decision-makers, including Huang Ju, 69, Wu Yi, 68, Zeng Peiyan, 68, and Hua Jianmin, 67. The leading candidates are Ma Kai, minister of the National Development and Reform Commission, 61; Li Rongrong, minister of the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission, 63; Zhou Xiaochuan, governor of the People's Bank, 59; Bo Xilai, minister of commerce, 58; and Lou Jiwei, deputy secretary general of the State Council, 57.

Some current provincial leaders, such as Beijing Mayor Wang Qishan, 59, Tianjin Mayor Dai Xianglong, 63, Shanghai Mayor Han Zheng, 53, and Chongqing Party Secretary Wang Yang, 52, are also among the leading candidates for posts as vice premiers in charge of economic and financial matters.

The Central Committee (CC) will also undergo a large-scale reshuffling. At present, 68% of the 356 members (both full and alternatives) of the 16th CC are more than 60 years old, and among the 198 full members, 88% are more than 60. Most of them belong to the so-called "fourth generation" of leaders.

The turnover rate of the Central Committee has been remarkably high over the past 25 years; newcomers constituted 60% of the 12th CC in 1982, 68% of the 13th CC in 1987, 57% of the 14th CC in 1992, 63% of the 15th CC in 1997 and 61% of the 16th CC in 2002 (Asian Survey, July/August 2002). Based on the current age distribution and the turnover rates at previous party congresses, we can expect that roughly 60% of the members of the 17th congress will be first-timers.

This upcoming party congress will likely be the coming of age of the "fifth generation" of Chinese leaders, defined as those who were born in the 1950s. The fifth generation of leaders consists of many "sent-down youth", who are often referred to as members of "the lost generation" of the Cultural Revolution.

This generation differs profoundly from preceding generations in terms of their formative experiences, educational credentials, political socialization, administrative backgrounds, foreign

Continued 1 2

The emerging Hu-Wen-Zeng troika (Feb 21, '07)

Out from under Jiang's shadow (Sep 27, '06)


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