Sentinel Project: CCP's Politburo Standing Committee

Updated: Jul 5, 2020

The Politburo Standing Committee (PSC) is made up of the top leadership of the Chinese Communist Party. The current iteration of the PSC is seven members, although it has usually made up of five to eleven individuals. When Chairman Mao was still in power, he selected members personally. Today, the PSC’s composition has been determined by debate and polls amongst incumbent and retired members of both the Politburo and the PSC. In this process, the General Secretary exerts a great amount of power and sway. The current members of the PSC, from highest to lowest in authority, are Xi Jinping, Li Keqiang, Li Zhanshu, Wang Yang, Wang Huning, Zhao Leji, and Han Zheng. 

Xi Jinping

Xi Jinping is the General Secretary of the Communist Party of China and the President of the People's Republic.

Xi Jinping was born in Beijing in 1953 to affluent parents. Despite this, he did not have an easy life. His father was Xi Zhongxun, one of the Chinese Communist Party's founding members, a vice-premier, and close friend of ​Chairman Mao. In 1962, however, his family was among the victims impacted why the Cultural Revolution. Xi's father was imprisoned for crimes against the state, while the nine year old boy was sent to the countryside for "re-education."

This did not turn Mr. Xi against the CCP. Instead, he worked his way to the top of the organization. Today, he is one of only three individuals to have their name enshrined in the PRC's constitution, and is arguably the most influential leader of the state in decades.

Li Keqiang

Li is a member of the Politburo Standing Committee and the current Premier of the State Council of the People's Republic of China.

Li Keqiang was born into a middle class family in 1955. After joining the Communist Party of China in 1976, he slowly worked his way through the ranks. Mr. Keqiang earned a bachelor’s degree in legal studies and a doctoral degree in economics from Beijing's Peking University. In the early 1990s, Li translated multiple legal publications from English into Chinese, including the British Constitution and The Due Process of Law.

He has been described as fiercely loyal to the advancement of state interests, although this has sometimes put him at odds with the CCP. To the dismay of officials, Li has proven hesitant to rely upon the government's notoriously inaccurate economic data for analysis due to his academic background in economics and law.

On the domestic front, Mr. Keqiang at times has been a vocal opponent of bureaucracy and government ineptitude. He has repeatedly expressed his disdain for many low-level party and state officials.

According to sources within the United States government, Li has a notoriously shrewd approach to foreign policy discussion. When an American delegation delivered China with an unfriendly economic ultimatum during high level negotiations, Li reportedly remarked, "we no longer need the United States. We have our own technological and industrial sectors." However, when a trade war erupted between the two powers in 2019, Li sought to mend the relationship by offering a series of concessions to the United States.

Wang Yang

Wang Yang is a member of the Politburo Standing Committee and the current Chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference.

Mr. Yang was born in 1955 to a family of humble means. After his father died, he went to work at a food processing factory to help his mother support the family. Wang eventually went on to acquire a bachelor’s degree in public administration from Beijing's Central Party School and master's in management science from Hefei's University of Science and Technology.

Known for his humorous and down-to-earth personality, Wang is often seen by western analysis and Chinese citizens as a liberal in China's elite. Although he shy's away from directly challenging the party's wishes, Wang has argued for more individual economic and social freedom, media transparency, and democratic processes at the local level.

Li Zhanshu

Li Zhanshu is the current Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress and member of the Politburo Standing Committee.

Born in 1950, Li comes from a long line of Chinese communist veterans. Mr. Zhanshu holds a bachelors degree in political science from Hebei Normal University and EMBA from the Harbin Institute of Technology.

General Secretary Xi Jinping and Li are close friends. When Xi was only a party secretary in Hebei, Li was serving in a similar position in the same province. They developed a strong working relationships and grew to trust each others judgement. Xi also understands the importance of of Li's connections. As he served as a provincial party leader in many party's of the county, he has proven adept at uniting various factions.

Wang Huning

Wang Huning is a member of the Politburo Standing Committee and the secretary of the Communist Party's Secretariat.

Wang Huning was born in Shanghai in 1955. After studying French at the Cadre Training Class in Shanghai, Huning received a master's in law from Fudan University. In the 1980s, he visited the University of Iowa, the University of Michigan, and the University of California. After his travels in the United States, he published a book titled America Against America.

As an academic, Mr. Huning has argued for an independent judiciary and against torture. He has also argued for greater economic freedom as a means of attaining a true Neo-authoritarian state.

Huning has served as an advisor to China's last three leaders (Jiang, Hu, and Xi), a testament to his own skill in political gamesmanship.

Zhao Leji

Zhao Leji is a member of the Politburo Standing Committee, Secretary of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, Deputy Head of the Central Leading Group for Inspection Work, Deputy Head of the Central Leading Group for Party Building Work, and Director of the Central Organization Department of the CCP Central Committee.

Mr. Leji was born in China's Qinghai province. After working as a manual laborer, Zhao moved to Xi'an to work as a communications assistant in Qinghai's Commerce Department. After becoming a member of the Communist Party in 1975, he entered Peking University and studied Philosophy. A close friend of General Secretary Xi Jinping, Zhao has appointed multiple political allies of his leader's, securing his own status and developing a reputation of dependability.

Han Zheng

Han Zheng is the Vice Premier of the State Council and member of the Politburo Standing Committee.

Mr. Zheng was born in Shanghai in 1954. After working in manufacturing plants towards the end of the Cultural Revolution, Han attended a two-year college program at Fudan University, studying political science, and achieving a masters from East China Normal University.

Han's career has largely centered around the city of Shanghai. As a leader in one of China's most advanced metropolitan areas, he was a wise choice to be an economic decision maker on the national level. Little is known about Zheng's political outlook, although it is obvious that he supports international trade and domestic infrastructure development.