China’s leadership scraps internal polls after ‘vote buying’ – China’s latest political and current affairs news


A detailed October 26 article (in Chinese) on central state media Xinhua (shorter English version here) has revealed the outlines of the leadership selection process that gave General Secretary Xi Jinping his governing team for his second five-year term. The article attracted attention from many media outlets for these details:

  • The article explains that “recommendation processes” — straw polls in which the 375 full and alternate members of the Party’s Central Committee indicate their preference for who should sit on the 25-member Politburo — were abandoned at the 19th Party Congress because they had previously led to “corrupt practices” (弊端 bìduān).
  • Specifically, it says that former top politicians Sun Zhengcai 孙政才, Zhou Yongkang 周永康, and Ling Jihua 令计划 — all of whom have been removed from the Party due to corruption — engaged in “vote buying and other non-organizational activities” (贿选等非组织活动 huìxuǎn děng fēi zǔzhī huódòng) during recommendation processes of the 17th and 18th Party congresses.
  • Instead of conducting straw polls, Xi Jinping reportedly met face-to-face with current and former political leaders on 57 occasions to solicit recommendations for top leadership, and then the usual horse trading and behind-the-scenes jockeying determined final decisions.

The Financial Times has a compelling explanation (paywall) of the significance of these revelations: Straw polls were a “very limited experiment in democracy” among the various factions of power at the top of China’s leadership, and their elimination may have aided Xi in his mission to diminish the influence of a rival faction, the Communist Youth League. The 17th and 18th Party congresses were times when the League was “at the height of its influence,” and Sun Zhengcai — already disgraced, recently accused (paywall) by state media of plotting a coup, and now blamed for high-level vote buying — was the League’s last chance to maintain a spot on the Politburo Standing Committee.


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Lucas Niewenhuis

Lucas Niewenhuis is an associate editor at SupChina who helps curate daily news and produce the company’s newsletter, app, and website content. Previously, Lucas researched China-Africa relations at the Social Science Research Council and interned at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. He has studied Chinese language and culture in Shanghai and Beijing, and is a graduate of the University of Michigan.