Prepared and researched by – Rahul Karan Reddy

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This is the second part of a two-part series mapping the 19th Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party. The first part can be accessed here.

Part 2 of the overview of the 19th Central Committee is a cross section of the institutional balance, rank distribution and composition of the Committee. This section also details the composition of the Politburo and Standing Committee and describes the various groups within the CC based on their affiliation: Party Secretaries, military leaders and national leaders.

Sector Distribution

Members of the Central Committee are selected from various departments and institutions of the Party and State at the central and provincial levels. The representation of these institutions in the CC reflects the balance of power between institutions within the Party and State and between the Center and provinces. Members in the CC are mostly from the provincial government (30.73%), party organisations (15.63%), state institutions (29.38%) and the military (16.64%). Together, they account for more than 92% of all CC members. Beyond these, the CC also has members that work in SOEs, GONGOs (Government-organised non-governmental organisation) and even one member that works in a private company named INSPUR, an IT and cloud services conglomerate.

Members from the provincial government account for the largest share of members in the CC (30.73 %). These provincial leaders are Party Secretaries, Mayors, Governors and other provincial standing committee members, who will become national leaders in the future. Since Deng Xiaoping’s economic reforms of 1978, provincial-level administrative experience is a stepping stone for national leadership. The percentage of Politburo members with provincial leadership experience has increased consistently since 1992. For instance, Party Secretaries of six provinces (Beijing, Shanghai, Tianjin, Chongqing, Guangdong and Xinjiang) have regularly served on the Politburo and 15 out of 25 members in the current Politburo have previously served as Party Secretaries in the past.

Officials from state institutions like the State Council account for the second largest share of members, with nearly 30% of CC members. State institutions are in charge of implementing party policy and directives as well as employing officials with extensive provincial leadership and administrative experience. Members of Party organisations at the central and local level account for slightly more than 15% of members, which is less than the number of military leaders in the CC (17%). These Party officials are the most powerful leaders in the CC, including national leaders and their deputies who occupy a significant position in the Full CC, accounting for 24% of members. State officials are the largest group (36%) in the Full CC and provincial leaders account for nearly 20% of all members in the Full CC, less than the number of party, state and military officials in the Full CC.

Rank Distribution

The distribution of ranks in the CC reflects the balance between experienced and emerging leaders. National leaders and deputy national leaders (49 members) are from the 1950s generation and occupy the highest ranks in the CCP hierarchy like the Standing Committee and Politburo. Deputy national leaders are Secretaries of important CCP departments, State Councillors, Vice Premiers and some are even party secretaries of important provinces. The second tier of the Party hierarchy is occupied by provincial-ministerial leaders like party secretaries, governors, mayors and provincial standing committee members with 165 members in the CC. They constitute a pool of candidates most likely to replace CC members at the highest level who are no longer eligible to hold office. Deputies of Provincial-Ministerial leaders form the next tier of CC members, who include deputies, vice-chairs, vice ministers and even presidents of universities. The CC also includes 58 members of the military that occupy three ranks: General, Lieutenant General and Major General.

Provincial Party Chiefs

Provincial Party Secretaries occupy an important position in the CC, evidenced by the fact that all Party Secretaries of provinces are part of the CC, except three. Only Party Secretaries from Anhui, Ningxia and Shanxi are not part of the 19th CC and are expected to join the 20th CC. Of the 28 Party Secretaries in the 19th CC, 21 are part of the Full CC and 6 are even part of the Politburo (Beijing, Shanghai, Tianjin, Chongqing, Guangdong and Xinjiang). Provincial Party secretaries, governors and mayors are a reliable pool of candidates eligible for higher office, given their experience in handling large, populous and prosperous regions of China.

The background, education and work history of Party Secretaries have gradually undergone changes that reflect the governance needs of China. Party Secretaries in the 19th CC have prior work experience as CEOs or managers of SOE’s, marking the entry of technocrats and professionals into the highest levels of provincial leadership. Additionally, Party Secretaries and members of provincial standing committees also receive some foreign education, thus equipped to deal with China’s engagements abroad. Party Secretaries are powerful players in China’s political scene and their appointments are carefully managed through rotations, promotions and retirements to ensure that no one individual can build an independent power base. According to research by Cheng Li, the average tenure of party secretaries has dropped from 4.5 years in 1985 to just 1.6 years in 2021.

Military Leaders

There are 62 military personnel in the 19th CC, of which 39 belong to the Full CC and 23 belong to the Alternate CC. Military members in the 19th CC that belong to the Full CC are older by approximately 5 years and occupy important positions in the military like, Minister of National Defence, Director of CMC Political Work Department and Chief of Staff of CMC Joint Staff Department. Of the 62 military personnel in the 19th CC, 18 members are aged 65 and above, and thus eligible for retirement (29%). All military members eligible for retirement are part of the Full CC while none of the military members in the Alternate CC will reach retirement age by October 2022. There are a few other members eligible for retirement who have already served two terms (8 years). In the CMC, 5 out of 6 members (excluding Xi Jinping) will be over the retirement age of 65 by October 2022. The new members of the CMC are likely to be selected from the military personnel in the Full CC. It is also likely that some military leaders above the age limit would be given positions in the State apparatus and thus retain their seat in the 20th CC.

* Some military officials in the CC are not included in this list because they turn 65 in November or December 2022, after the Party Congress. For instance, Li Shangfu, He Ping, Zhu Laihang and Zhou Yaning will turn 65 after October 2022, thus eligible for another term.* Some military officials in the CC are not included in this list because they now occupy state offices although they hold military ranks. For instance, Yuan Yubai, Commander of the Southern Theater Command from 2017 to 2021 was appointed vice-chairman of the NPC Social Development Affairs Committee in June 2021. Similarly, Han Weiguo, a general and commander of the PLA Ground Force from 2017 to 2021 was appointed vice chairperson of the NPC Foreign Affairs Committee in August 2021.

PSC

The Politburo Standing Committee (PSC) is the highest political body in China, staffed by the 7 highest ranking members of the CCP. The rule for appointing officials based on their age is called ‘seven-up eight-down’, which permits officials below the age of 68 at the time of the Party Congress to serve on the PSC. On the other hand, if a member is 68 or older at the time of the Party Congress, they are not eligible to serve on the PSC. Of the seven members, only 3 are eligible for retirement: Xi Jinping, Han Zheng and Li Zhanshu. However, given that term limits for President of PRC were dismantled, Xi Jinping is unlikely to step down as General Secretary of the CCP. On the other hand, the Party has announced that age limits will not be the only consideration guiding the retirement/promotion of officials at the 20th Party Congress, hinting at the possibility that some senior leaders older than 68 could retain their seats. Four PSC members will not reach the age of 68 by October 2022, although Li Keqiang is set to retire as Premier in March 2023 after completing two terms.


Politburo

The Politburo is composed of 25 members, including members of the PSC, and is the Party’s second highest ranking body. Members from the PSC are selected from Politburo members who have served at least one term. Of the 25 members in the Politburo, 8 are older than 68 and are likely to retire at the 20th Party Congress in October 2022. For instance, Liu He, one of China’s Vice-Premiers and Director of the Central Economic and Financial Affairs Commission is 70 years old and will vacate one of China’s most important economic offices. On the other hand, some members within the Politburo will be promoted to the PSC at the 20th Party Congress, depending on their proximity/loyalty to Xi Jinping and experience in administrative and economic affairs.