BEIJING — The 18th congress of the Communist Party in China wrapped up this week with President Hu Jintao stepping down as party general secretary to make way for Xi Jinping, his long-ago-anointed heir. Here are profiles of the seven leaders named to the Standing Committee of the Politburo.
Xi Jinping, 59, grew up in privilege, was plunged into poverty when his parents fell out of favor during the Cultural Revolution and then methodically climbed his way back to his current post: general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party. In March, he will become China’s president. He has served as party secretary in Shanghai, Fujian and Zhejiang, provinces larger than most European countries.
A large, lumbering man, Xi is a more personable figure than outgoing President Hu Jintao, according to people who know them both. “He doesn’t give off airs of a high official with the pomp and circumstance. He is more comfortable in his own skin,” said a businessman who knows the two.
Li Keqiang, the presumptive premier, is one of the few Chinese leaders who speak passable English, which he reportedly taught himself by carrying around index cards. Unlike many of his fellow Standing Committee members, Li has a modest background; his father was a local official in the rural province of Anhui.
Li, 57, has a bachelor’s in law and a doctorate in economics from Peking University.
During his tenure as governor of Henan province, he faced a scandal involving contaminated blood that resulted in the rapid spread of AIDS, but his stewardship of the economy helped him win promotion to party boss in Liaoning province.
Known as an iron-fisted enforcer, Zhang Dejiang speaks Korean and studied economics at North Korea’s Kim Il Sung University.
After the charismatic Bo Xilai was removed as party secretary of Chongqing this year amid a scandal involving murder and corruption, Zhang was sent to the metropolis of 30 million to restore stability and project an air of calm and order.
Zhang is considered a “princeling” because he is the son of a former army major general. Since 2008, Zhang, 66, has been vice premier in charge of telecommunications, energy and transportation. Critics have faulted his response to the 2011 Wenzhou high-speed train crash that killed 40 people, saying he rushed the trains back into service.
Often called “the chief of the fire brigade,” Wang Qishan has a reputation as a competent hand in times of crisis. With a background in banking, he has served as vice premier in charge of economics and finance and as special envoy to the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue.
Wang, 64, has a “wicked sense of humor” and is “decisive and inquisitive,” according to former U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson. In October 2012, he was named one of Bloomberg’s 50 most influential people.
A history major in college, Wang held senior posts in the 1990s at the China Construction Bank and China’s central bank, where he helped manage a major debt crisis at Chinese financial institutions.
Liu Yunshan has a long history with the Communist Party’s propaganda branch, dating back to his days in Inner Mongolia in the 1970s and ’80s, when he worked as a writer for the state-run New China News Agency. For the last 10 years he’s been head of the Propaganda Department, strongly involved with China’s efforts to keep domestic media on a short leash and censor the Internet.
Liu, 65, presided over a multibillion-dollar effort to expand the reach of China’s state-run media overseas, including the opening of China Central Television branches in the United States and Africa and the launch of an American edition of the China Daily newspaper.
Zhang Gaoli, born in 1946, spent his early career in the oil industry before joining government in the mid-1980s and working his way up the ladder in Guangdong province. From 1997 to 2001, he served as party chief in the southern metropolis of Shenzhen, the first of China’s special economic zones, which he helped make into a showcase for China’s shift toward a market economy.
In 2007, Zhang was given responsibility for Tianjin, a northern port. There he has gone all out to drive growth through massive investment in new infrastructure and financial districts. (One project, Yujiapu, is a knockoff of Manhattan, with buildings modeled after Rockefeller Center and the World Trade Center.)
Yu Zhengsheng, 67, the party boss of Shanghai, has an extraordinary family history, with ties not only to Mao Tse-tung, Deng Xiaoping and Jiang Zemin, but also to Nationalist leader Chiang Kai-shek.
His grandfather’s brother served as defense minister under Chiang, and his father was once married to Jiang Qing, who later wed Mao.
Yu’s brother served as bureau chief of China’s Ministry of State Security but defected to the United States in the mid-1980s. His brother is credited with exposing a CIA analyst, Larry Chin, as a longtime Chinese spy.
As Shanghai party chief, he is known for shunning some perks of leadership, preferring to travel in a Volkswagen Passat without a motorcade.