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Who are China's next leaders?

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Wang Qishan, Deputy Prime Minister of China attends a news conference after meeting with the Brazil's Vice President Michel Temer at the Itamaraty Palace in Brasilia, Brazil, Feb. 13.

Ueslei Marcelino/Reuters/File

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4. Wang Qishan

A history graduate with an extensive background in finance, Wang Qishan is popularly known in China as “the fire chief.”

He has put out a number of fires over the course of his career, but perhaps his most notable achievement dates back to 2003, when he stepped in as Beijing’s mayor after the previous incumbent – who had covered up the SARS epidemic – was fired.

Mr. Wang ordered daily briefings for the media and talked often and freely with officials from international bodies such as the World Health Organization. By doing so, he restored the Chinese government’s tattered international credibility.

He is known as a straightforward talker unafraid of the limelight; a couple of years ago he appeared on the Charlie Rose Show to answer questions, a feat of daring unthinkable in any other Chinese leader of his seniority. Regarded as open to the West, Wang led Chinese delegations to several “strategic dialogue” sessions with the United States, making numerous friends among US officials.

Wang has been the governor of a state-owned bank and is experienced in financial affairs; for the past four years, he has been vice premier in charge of trade and the financial sector – a key post from which he has helped steer China through the turbulence following the global financial crisis in 2008. 

He had been expected to take another economic role on the Standing Committee, but the latest rumors suggest that instead he will be made head of the party’s Discipline Commission. That will put him in charge of the campaign to root out corruption, which outgoing General Secretary Hu Jintao warned last week could “prove fatal to the party and even cause the collapse of the party and the fall of the state.”

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