International security issues effecting China and the wider Asia-Pacific region
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China`s New Leaders

These are the members of the Politburo Standing Committee after the Chinese National Congress. The committee is the top body of China's all-powerful Communist Party. Its role is to discuss and decide on major policy issues. The party's constitution says China's top leader must also be a member of the standing committee. So appointments are keenly watched. In the new line-up, Premier Li Keqiang is the only member to retain his position, apart from Xi Jinping. Chinese leaders have traditionally hinted at possible heirs through committee reshuffles at the beginning of their final term. Until now, because this “line-up” has creates questions about the future than answers.

These are the new members of the committee:

Wang Huning,
Already firmly within Xi’s inner circle, Wang Huning is the president’s top foreign policy adviser and frequently travels overseas with China’s leader. A former scholar known for his theories on “neo-authoritarianism” , Wang, 62, was an adviser to Xi’s two predecessors and has reputedly been influential in shaping Xi’s political thoughts.

Li Zhanshu
A longtime friend of Xi and his current chief of staff, Li Zhanshu has become a powerful advocate for the president and his policies. Li, 67, was instrumental last year in Xi’s anointment as China’s “core” leader and reportedly also played a key role in having Xi Jinping Thought added to the party charter this week, an honour which places him in the same league as Mao.

Wang Yang
Wang Yang, 62, is China’s top trade negotiator, frequently going toe to toe with US officials in talks. He previously ran the economic powerhouse of Guangdong province and came up through the Communist Youth League, a faction within the government that has been greatly weakened since Xi came to power.

Han Zheng
Han Zheng, 63, has spent his entire career in Shanghai and was Xi’s deputy during his brief stint there as party chief in 2007. Han worked to transform the city into a international financial hub and most recently oversaw the establishment of a free trade zone, with mixed results.

Zhao Leji
Zhao Leji, 60, headed the party’s powerful and mysterious Organisation Department, overseeing the appointment of all officials across China. Until 2007, Zhao ran the sparsely populated Qinghai province, home to a large Tibetan minority, and manged to double economic output in his seven years in the post. His father was friends with Xi’s father and Zhao is seen as a leader of one of the two rising political factions.

There is an unspoken rule inside the Party, that every member of the Politburo “retires” at the age of 68. In 2022, the year of the next Congress, the youngest Zhao Leji will be already 65, which means that there will be no second term for no one in the Committee. Why is it interesting? In the PRC it is also a custom, that the current President in his second (and final) term chooses his successor into the Committee. But the fact that the new appointees were all in their 60s, and likely to retire at the end of this five-year term, sends a different signal. The tradition emerged in the 1990s, when veteran leader Deng Xiaoping sought to avoid a repeat of the chaos that had marked the Mao era and its immediate aftermath. Xi's two predecessors have followed the orderly pattern of succession. But since he came to power in 2012, he has shown his readiness to write his own rules.

By setting himself up as the strongest ruler since Deng, Xi has pushed the world’s newest superpower into new and potentially dangerous political territory. On Tuesday, its final day, the congress elevated Xi to the same exalted status as the nation’s founder, Mao Zedong, by enshrining “Xi Jinping Thought” into the party’s constitution. Xi himself has described the Thought as part of the broad framework created around Socialism with Chinese Characteristics, a Dengist term that places China in the "primary stage of socialism". In official party documentation and pronouncements by Xi's colleagues, the Thought is said to be a continuation of Marxism–Leninism, Mao Zedong Thought, Deng Xiaoping Theory, "the important thought of the Three Represents", and the Scientific Development Perspective, as part of a series of guiding ideologies that embody "Marxism adapted to Chinese conditions" and contemporary considerations.

At first glance, "Xi Jinping Thought" may seem like vague rhetoric, but it describes the communist ideals Xi has continuously espoused throughout his rule. Its 14 main principles emphasize the Communist Party's role in governing every aspect of the country, and also include:
• A call for "complete and deep reform" and "new developing ideas"
• A promise of "harmonious living between man and nature" - this is a call for improved environmental conservation, and could refer to the stated aim to have the bulk of China's energy needs supplied by renewables
• An emphasis on "absolute authority of the party over the people's army" - which comes amid what analysts call the largest turnover of senior military officials in modern Chinese history
• An emphasis on the importance of "'one country two systems" and reunification with the motherland - a clear reference to Hong Kong and Taiwan
Even though there have been previous signs of Xi’s growing power, Xi’s unusual elevation in influence and prestige within the party as well as the whole nation still profoundly unsettled many observers of China. The message is clear. Domestically, China is entering Xi Jinping’s “New Era,” but Xi has also provided a path for China’s leadership of the wider world into a global “New Era.” Not since Chairman Mao has China’s dream of greatness rested so heavily on one man.