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    Greater China
     Mar 29, 2007
Page 2 of 3
China's 'fifth generation' leaders come of age
By Cheng Li

contacts and world views. The collective characteristics and intra-generational diversity of the fifth generation of leaders will likely have a strong impact on the country's political trajectory and socio-economic policies in the years to come. [5]

Hu's successor designated?
Rightly or wrongly, a great deal of public attention will be given to the issue of Hu Jintao's successor. This is understandable

because Hu served on the Politburo Standing Committee for 10 years before taking the post of general secretary in 2002.

Hu's previous 10-year-long membership on the Standing Committee not only allowed him to gain leadership experience in the country's highest political institution, but also placed him as the first among equals in the fourth generation in line to succeed president Jiang Zemin. Based on this political precedent, it seems necessary for the Chinese political establishment to identify Hu's successor during this upcoming congress. With an adequate "reserve" period near the center of power, this heir apparent will be able to take over the top leadership when Hu completes his second term at the 18th Party Congress in 2012.

Largely because of the current Chinese obsession with age in elite recruitment, the heir apparent is unlikely to be chosen from the pool of current members of the Politburo. The youngest member of the current Standing Committee, Li Changchun, is only two years younger than Hu Jintao, and the youngest current Politburo member, Liu Yunshan, is only five years younger than Hu. The CCP's norm of promoting leaders in batches, within somewhat narrow age brackets, suggests that Hu's designated successor will most likely be a new face in the 2007 Politburo.

It is unclear, however, whether the 17th Party Congress will select a single younger leader, the "core" leader of the fifth generation, to be the successor to Hu or will choose two to four "rising stars" from that age group to wait in line for succession to the top posts in the party and the state. This largely depends on whether or not a consensus or a willingness to compromise exists among competing factions, as well as the degree of confidence that the old guards have regarding the loyalty and the ability of the newcomers.

In recent years, Chinese public opinion has been critical of the traditional method of appointing the heir apparent. Top leaders' recent rhetoric about the promotion of collective leadership and inner-party democracy seems to suggest that they may choose a few leading candidates from the fifth generation rather than simply appoint one "core" figure (Wenhuibao, March 12).

It is likely that two to four rising stars of the fifth generation will be promoted to the Politburo or the Standing Committee at the 17th Party Congress. [6] These potential successors will acquire more political capital, compete with one another, gain further endorsements from Hu and other top leaders, and become more familiar to the Chinese public over the next five years.

In contrast to many democratic countries, where top politicians may not have much administrative experience in their previous careers, China's political rising stars have usually been on the list of "future leaders", prepared by the CCP Organization Department, for 15-20 years. Although no one, perhaps not even Hu Jintao himself, knows which younger leader will finally be appointed as the general secretary of the party, the pool of candidates is clear.

As part of the norms of Chinese elite recruitment, the candidates for top leadership should be current members or alternatives of the Central Committee, should have substantial leadership experience in provincial-level administration, and should be more or less acceptable to all current top leaders and factions.

Among all the candidates, four leaders - Liaoning Party Secretary Li Keqiang, 52, Jiangsu Party Secretary Li Yuanchao, 57, Chongqing Party Secretary Wang Yang, 52, and newly appointed Shanghai Party Secretary Xi Jinping, 54 - are apparently the front-runners.

Their advantages over other potential candidates stem from their current administrative positions, broad leadership experiences, strong patron-client ties and educational credentials. For example, three of these four rising stars hold advanced degrees in economics, politics or law; the other holds a master's degree in economic management. None of them are entirely new to the Chinese public; all have served on the vice-provincial and ministerial levels of leadership for about two decades.

The first three leaders, known as the tuanpai faction, have advanced their careers through the vehicle of the Chinese Communist Youth League. They have been under the patronage of Hu Jintao ever since the early 1980s when Hu was in charge of the league. Many other tuanpai leaders are also poised for promotion.

Tuanpai leaders currently occupy one-third of the top provincial positions (party secretaries and governors) and about one-fourth of the ministerial posts of the State Council and directorships of the CCP central departments. Some of them could potentially be dark-horse candidates in the race for power at the 17th Party Congress. [7]

With so many of his tuanpai proteges in line for promotion, Hu Jintao will, for the first time since he assumed the post of CCP

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