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Friday, 31 October 2014

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China's leadership line-up gets 6.5 out of 10

The seven men who will run China’s ruling party for the next five years have a tough job. Two of them, party chief Xi Jinping and premier-in-waiting Li Keqiang, have been groomed for years, but even they are little known. Are they up to it? Breakingviews has scored them on five key criteria, and found some scope for encouragement.

1. International experience. Only Wang Qishan and Zhang Dejiang have spent significant time abroad - and Zhang was in North Korea. On the plus side, Li speaks English. He and Xi have personal reasons to keep U.S. ties friendly: both reportedly have offspring studying there. Score: 6/10.

2. Crisis management. Wang, highly regarded by senior Western bankers and economists, helped clean up financial crises in Hainan and Guangdong. But his new anti-corruption role may spread him too thin. Li ran Henan in the aftermath of an AIDS epidemic, while Zhang was vice premier in charge of industry and transport during last year’s railway corruption crisis, although both took a “crack down first, ask questions later” approach. Score: 7/10.

3. Economic growth. Many of the newcomers, like Tianjin boss Zhang Gaoli, have worked in rapidly growing provinces. But growth alone isn’t what China needs, and the team lacks direct experience of disenfranchised provinces like Tibet or Xinjiang. Still, all can take some credit for the relative stability of the past decade. Score: 7/10.

4. Factional ties. Five of the seven have clear career ties to Jiang Zemin, the influential ex-president. Only two have links to Hu Jintao’s Communist Youth League. Three of the seven are “princelings” – children of former leaders -  and another is married to one. If patronage counts, expect policies that protect the rich. Score: 5/10.

5. Diversity. Seven suited men, all from China’s Han majority, aren’t exactly a mixed bunch. There are slight differences of education: it’s no longer just a collection of science graduates. But the team that purports to serve the people is still far from representative. Score: 5/10.

The party deserves some credit for changing the script a bit. Unlike his predecessor, Hu is also giving up the top army role from day one, which may signal trust in Xi. The line-up has also been changed to reflect the fact that the premier, who officially ranked third in the party hierarchy, is really number two. In such a rigid framework, any sign of change is a bonus. Overall, China’s new leadership gets 6.5 out of 10.

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China’s ruling Communist Party unveiled a new leadership line-up on Nov. 15 in Beijing. The seven leaders will form the Politburo Standing Committee.

Xi Jinping takes over from outgoing President Hu Jintao as party chief. Xi has also been elected chairman of the Chinese Communist Party’s central military commission. Li Keqiang will become premier in March. Zhang Dejiang will be chairman of the National People’s Congress. Yu Zhengsheng is expected to become head of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, the consultative body that includes representatives from all of the main parties. Other members will include Liu Yunshan, Wang Qishan and Zhang Gaoli.

Their appointment comes after a closely controlled vote by the party’s new 205-member central committee, which was installed at the end of a five-yearly party congress on Nov. 14.

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