Zhao Leji (left) and Li Zhanshu (right) Photo: Xinhua
Zhao Leji (left) and Li Zhanshu (right) Photo: Xinhua

Chinese President Xi Jinping’s two most trusted subordinates are poised to enter the standing politburo committee, China’s top decision-making body, to lead the country’s legislation and anti-corruption bodies.

While two days remain before the Communist Party of China (CPC) unveils the five new standing politburo members, several offshore media outlets have speculated on the most likely successors.

They are likely to include: CPC General Office Director Li Zhanshu (age 67), Shanghai Party Secretary Han Zheng (64), Vice Premier Wang Yang (62), CPC Policy Research Office Director Wang Huning (62) and CPC Central Committee’s Organization Department head Zhao Leji (60).

Chinese media, including Ming Pao, Bowen Press and the South China Morning Post have reported that the two hot candidates — Guangdong Party Secretary Hu Chunhua and Chongqing Party Secretary Chen Min’er — failed to enter the standing politburo committee.

Hu Chunhua, 54 who was put forward by former Chinese President Hu Jintao as the country’s next president, declined to enter the standing politburo committee, Bowen Press reported last week.

Shortly after that former Chongqing Party Secretary Sun Zhengcai, once seen as the successor to Premier Li Keqiang in 2022, was expelled from the party on October 14 due to corruption.

Chen Min’er, 57, who could be Xi’s successor, is unlikely to become a standing politburo member at this time as Xi does not want to lose any of his power over the next five-year term. Another reason is that Xi may seek to renew his term from 2022 and does not necessarily need to pick a successor now.

On Sunday, Bowen Press reported the position of five new standing politburo members. Li Zhanshu, dubbed as the right-hand-man of Xi, was assigned to chair the National People’s Congress.

Zhao Leji, whose grandfather purportedly was a subordinate of Xi’s grandfather Xi Zhongxun, was expected to lead the CCDI, replacing current anti-graft chief Wang Qishan.

Wang Huning, who had been a policy thinker for former President Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao, is likely to become Secretary of the Central Secretariat.

Han Zheng was expected to become Executive Vice Premier while Wang Yang, who is said to have proved his loyalty to Xi, could chair the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference.

The one-week-long 19th National Congress of CPC will end on Tuesday after 2,280 party representatives select 200-members of the 19th Central Committee, which will hold its first meeting on Wednesday. Seven standing politburo members, including president Xi and premier Li, will be unveiled after that.