At its 18th Party Congress next autumn, the ruling Chinese Communist Party will choose the nine men (and they will almost certainly all be men) who will lead the country for the next decade. Infighting among candidates is fierce, under the table, and the identities of the winners will be a closely guarded secret until the moment they walk onto a stage in the Great Hall of the People at the end of the Congress.
In the meantime, here are five names to keep an eye on as China prepares for a once-in-a-decade leadership change.
Currently the vice president, vice chairman of the Central Military Commission, and head of the party school, Xi Jinping looks like a shoo-in to take over from President Hu Jintao as head of the party this autumn and as China’s president early next year.
An ebullient, affable man with a reputation for living modestly, Mr. Xi made his name running two of the economic powerhouse provinces on China’s prosperous east coast, suggesting he is sympathetic to more free market reform.
The son of a former deputy premier, Xi is a “princeling” and a member of what is known as the elitist faction within the Communist party. But the six years he spent working in the countryside during the Cultural Revolution are said to have given him a better understanding of poor people’s concerns.
He has made fewer enemies on his way up the ladder than many ambitious rivals, and is thus acceptable to a wider range of his peers and superiors. He will only be “first among equals” on the Standing Committee of the party’s Politburo, however, and is expected to spend his first few years in power consolidating his position before launching any new policy initiatives.
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