The 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China will be held in the fall of 2017. There will be far-reaching changes in the top leadership of the Party. A majority of the 7 member Politburo Standing Committee is expected to retire at the congress.
There is no doubt that Xi Jinping (64 at time of Congress) will continue for another term as General Secretary. But will he stay for another term after that? He is constitutionally limited to two terms as President, but the offices of General Secretary and Chairman of the Central Military Commission are not term limited (though there is a strong two-term presumption).
Personnel decisions at the 19th Congress will give strong indications of whether Xi will stay when the 20th comes around. Xi and Li Keqiang were promoted to the Politburo Standing Committee in 2007. They took their current positions in 2012. If one of the next generation of leaders born after 1960, e.g., Sun Zhengcai, Hu Chunhua or Chen Min’er, are to take over in 2022, promotion next year will be essential.
Xi and Li will remain on the Standing Committee after 2017. Who will retire? Since the 16th Congress in 2002, all Standing Committee members reaching the age of 68 in the year of a congress are presumed to retire. To date, this convention is unbroken. Hence, it is likely that five out of the seven members of the 18th Politburo Standing Committee will give up their seats: Zhang Dejiang (1946), Yu Zhengsheng (1945), Liu Yunshan (1947), Wang Qishan (1948) and Zhang Gaoli (1946) — though there is speculation that anti-corruption czar Wang may stay on.
If the age 68 convention holds, there are 11 current Politburo members born in 1950 or later who would qualify to advance to the Standing Committee:
Wang Huning (1955): in charge of theory and Party ideology;
Liu Qibao (1953): ex party chief of Sichuan, current head of the Propaganda Department;
Sun Chunlan (1950): ex party chief of Fujian and Tianjin; current head of the United Front Department; would be first woman ever on Standing Committee;
Sun Zhengcai (1963): party chief of Chongqing, highly regarded;
Li Yuanchao (1950): Vice-President; Politburo member since 2007, tuanpai (Youth League faction) member;
Wang Yang (1955): ex party chief of Chongqing and Guangdong province, Politburo member since 2007, had been expected to advance in 2012;
Zhang Chunxian (1953): ex party chief of Xinjiang, transferred to become deputy leader of the Leading Group for Party Building;
Zhao Leji (1957): head of Organization Department;
Hu Chunhua (1963): Guangdong party chief, speculated during the 18th Party Congress as an incoming “heir apparent”;
Li Zhanshu (1950): chief of the General Office of the National Security Commission, major Xi confidant;
Han Zheng (1954): party chief of Shanghai, former Shanghai mayor, technocrat.