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):
- Xi Jinping 习近平, 64 — president and general secretary of the Communist Party
- Li Keqiang 李克强, 62 — premier
- Li Zhanshu 栗战书, 67 — head of the National People’s Congress
- Wang Yang 汪洋, 62 — head of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC)
- Wang Huning 王沪宁, 62 — first secretary of the Central Secretariat, in charge of Party work and ideology
- Zhao Leji 赵乐际, 60 — head of the Central Commission for Discipline and Inspection, replacing Wang Qishan 王岐山
- Han Zheng 韩正, 63 — executive vice premier
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:
- China’s Xi taps low-profile official to take over war on graft / Reuters
- China’s Xi Jinping unveils his top party leaders, with no successor in sight / Washington Post
- Factbox: Xi allies dominate China’s new 25-member Politburo / Reuters
- China female politician: A lone female, Sun Chunlan, sits among the top of China’s Communist Party / Quartz
- Not too old, but none too popular: Three senior politicians lose their seats at China’s top table / SCMP