Xi has shaken up China’s power order, but experts say he still controls everyone

Xi has shaken up China’s power order, but experts say he still controls everyone

  • Last month, Xi Jinping announced who would join him as China’s top seven officials.
  • His new lineup is a stark departure from the committee he co-chaired from 2017 to 2022.
  • Experts told Insider that the world should expect little change from Xi’s new cadre.

On October 23rd, President Xi Jinping revealed who will be the people in power in China for the next five years.

Like him walked past the golden door Six officials ran after him to meet the press in the Great Hall of the People: Li Qian, Zhao Leji, Wang Huning, Cai Qi, Ding Xuexian, and Li Xi.

The new lineup is a dramatic shift from the committee that ran China from 2017 to 2022. Of the six former Politburo Standing Committee members, only two, Zhao and Wang, survived the transition. The remaining four have reached retirement age or have retired.

Xi Jinping represents the other six members of the Politburo Standing Committee.

Xi Jinping represents the other six members of the Politburo Standing Committee.

Zhai Jianlan/Xinhua via Getty Images



Insider spoke with two experts to discuss the top three members of China’s Politburo Standing Committee — Li, Wang and Zhao — and what their appointments say about Xi’s leadership style.

Li Qiang, Xi’s trusted aide

Li Qiang

Li Qiang, a member of the Standing Committee, is now the second most influential person in China.

Kevin Frayer/Stringer/Getty Images



Supposedly second in line to Lin Xi. He served as the leader’s chief of staff when Xi was in charge of Zhejiang province from 2004 to 2007.

“Xi Jinping always uses his old people. People who worked with him in Zhejiang and Fujian. That’s Xi Jinping’s style,” Associate Professor Alfred Wu of the National University of Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy told Insider.

Li’s appointment as No. 2 is perhaps the strongest indicator of Xi’s grip on power. He was not even part of the previous seven-member committee and was deeply discredited by his erratic behavior. a two-month blockade in Shanghai.

“Many people assumed that Li would collapse after the Shanghai blockade,” Wu said. “But he is one of Xi Jinping’s people. That message is so important.”

“This clearly shows that Lee did not take all the blame and that he is not the one responsible for the problems in Shanghai,” Dylan Loh, a professor of public policy and global affairs at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University, told Insider.

Voiced by Zhao Lej, The Chance Gang

Character of Chinese politician Zhao Leji

Zhao Leji previously headed CCDI, the anti-corruption agency.

Ding Haitao/Xinhua via Getty Images



Zhao was previously head of Xi’s powerful Disciplinary Committee, or CCDI, a regulatory agency designed to combat widespread corruption in China’s elite and the centerpiece of Xi’s anti-corruption campaign.

It was during Zhao’s tenure as head of the CCDI that the agency began its startling crackdown on big tech, a sector that had until then seen unsustainable growth in China.

From being the lowest-ranking member of the previous standing committee, Zhao jumped four ranks to reach his current position.

“Giving Zhao third place can be an incentive or a reward. It shows to me that Xi Jinping is satisfied with the work Zhao has done,” Loh said.

However, Zhao was also known to take a “largely hands-off approach” during his tenure and did not spend much time on investigations. Chun Han Wong and Keith Zai of The Wall Street Journal wrote:

Wu believes Zhao’s appointment has more to do with his relationship with Xi. He is a part “Gang of Chance” A group of Communist Party leaders who are natives of Xi’s home province of Shaanxi and grew up with him.

According to analysts Brookings InstitutionZhao is often considered the spokesperson for the Chance gang.

“It doesn’t mean that Zhao was Xi’s childhood friend. Other past powerful leaders had more prominent relationships with Xi during his youth. But he’s part of the club,” Wu said.

Wang Huning, Xi’s Ideologist

Van Huning

Kevin Frayer/Stringer/Getty Images



Wang is known among Chinese scholars as a survivor, Wu said. Some compare him to a stiff toy or a doll with a rounded bottom because he did not fall while serving China’s last three regimes under Xi, Hu Jintao and Jiang Zemin, the professor added.

Widely considered the brains behind Xi’s policies and ideologies, Wang also helped Hui and Jiang develop their political theories, an important mechanism that sets the tone for their administration’s governance.

Wang has become “indispensable” to Xi because of his expertise in crafting political themes and slogans that are vital to Xi’s legitimacy in China, Loh said.

“Xi is increasingly turning to ideologies as a pillar of his governance,” Loh said. “Mao turned to violence, Deng Xiaoping to money and growth.”

“Violence is unimaginable these days, and money is a limited resource,” added the professor.

In 1991, Wang published America vs. America, a book documenting his prediction of the decline of US dominance and stability as the country focused on “individualism, hedonism, and democracy.”

When the Capitol riots happened last year, the book sold out on Chinese online markets. reports Bloomberg.

Much of this is echoed in China diplomatic and political rhetoric today. But Wang also played a key role in creating the Hu and Jiang ideologies, under which China enjoyed positive relations with the United States and opened its economy more to Western trade.

It’s still Xi’s China

Even with Xi’s new commission lined up, the world should expect little change from China’s new leaders, two experts on Chinese politics say. With Xi still at the helm, differences in governing ideologies or economic policies pursued by the six members of his committee are now inconsequential, they say.

Wu said Zhao can help develop and refine Xi’s ideologies, but that their essence comes from the president, not his political theorist;

“Xi Jinping says it very clearly, he is the commander,” Wu added. “But a top leader will never pretend to be in charge of everything, because then you have to take responsibility for everything too.”



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