Wang Yang, the most interesting new member of the Politburo  – China’s latest top news


Is Wang Yang going to bake a big cake, or is he a token liberal?

On Wednesday morning Beijing time, after the conclusion of the Communist Party’s 19th Congress, state media announced the lineup of the Politburo Standing Committee (PBSC), the country’s most senior decision-making body.

It’s a country for old men. There are only 10 women out of 204 members of the Party’s Central Committee, and no women in the PBSC, which now is composed of the following (names of new members are linked to South China Morning Post profiles, or see this New York Times piece [paywall] for more):

The most interesting man among them is Wang Yang (see his C.V.), but he does not seem to have caught the interest of English-language media.

  • Wang was the Party chief of Guangdong Province, the most business-friendly region in China, from 2007 to 2012.
  • His tenure as the boss of Guangdong coincided with that of the fallen Party chief of Chongqing, Bo Xilai 薄熙来.
  • Bo and Wang were political rivals, but perhaps more importantly right now: In the years before 2012, Chinese media called their differing approaches to governance the “cake debate,” also known as the Chongqing model vs. the Guangdong model.
  • In the cake debate, Bo’s position was statist, advocating for an equitable distribution of the wealth generated by the country’s economic boom — “dividing the cake” among the deserving and needy — whereas Wang promoted more liberal, laissez-faire policies intended to stimulate economic growth — “making an even bigger cake.”  
  • Wang has a sense of humor: the South China Morning Post says he once jested that “China and America’s relationship was like a marriage, but then quipping that this did not mean that he and the then US treasury secretary Jack Lew would be entering into a same-sex relationship.”

Further reading on the closing of the 19th Party Congress:

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Jeremy Goldkorn

Jeremy Goldkorn is co-founder of the Sinica Podcast and currently edits SupChina and its daily newsletter.