China Communist Party shakeup as Xi Jinping leads replacement of Politburo Standing Committee

China Communist Party shakeup as Xi Jinping leads replacement of Politburo Standing Committee

China Communist Party shakeup as Xi Jinping leads replacement of Politburo Standing Committee

Updated 26 October 2017, 0:30 AEDT

The last week has seen the biggest shakeup in Chinese politics since the cultural revolution.

The 19th Party Congress has seen the majority of the Communist Party elites replaced, that is the 200 central committee members, 15 of the 25 politburo members and five of the seven members in the top decision-making body, the Politburo Standing Committee.

The equivalent in Australia would be most of house of representatives and senate removed and replaced and the cabinet totally overhauled.

The big difference of course is it's all been to service the leadership and vision of one man — Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Mr Xi has laid out an ambitious plan not just for the next five years but until 2050 when China will become "a great modern socialist country" and a global leader.

It's a breath of vision that most liberal Western democracies fail to have.

The climax of the week was the unveiling of the new members of Politburo Standing Committee.

Mr Xi led a line-up of seven men whose decisions will impact China's 1.4 billion people and the world.

In the end there were no great surprises, they are all pretty much Xi loyalists ready to execute his vision.

Here's a quick rundown on the new members according to Communist Party hierarchy.

Mr Xi being number one of course, his elevation in status will mean he can dictate decisions as the notion of collective leadership has been downgraded.

Number two: 62-year-old Premier Li Keqiang

For several years there was speculation he might be dumped as his profile grew both in China and internationally as the urbane, capable economist.

But Mr Xi has been busy dismantling his power base, the Communist Youth League which is allied to former president Hu Jintao.

Also Mr Xi has taken much of his portfolio by forming new economic committees with himself in charge.

Number three: 67-year-old Li Zhanshu

He is seen as Mr Xi's enforcer and has worked closely with him for last five years, effectively as his chief of staff.

But the two men have a long history and go way back to when they started out as young party cadres in rural China.

Mr Li will likely head up China's Parliament, the National People's Congress, to ensure strong support.

Number four: 62-year-old Wang Yang

The Chinese Vice-Premier worked himself up through the ranks and proved his skills by managing complex economic issues while party chief of Chongqing and Guangdong.

Over the past five years, Mr Wang has been Mr Xi's point man to Washington in trade and economic matters.

Mr Wang's elevation should be welcomed by foreign investors as he is seen as a reformer.

Number five: 62-year-old Wang Huning

He has been the senior party strategist and theoretician for last three presidents.

The professor turned politician has been close to the centre of power at Zhongnanhai which is the equivalent to the White House or the Kremlin.

He is likely to put meat on the bones of "Xi Jinping Thought" and be his chief speech writer.

He's also being described as "China's Kissinger" and has become a regular on Mr Xi's trips overseas.

Number six: 60-year-old Zhao Leji

He is a close ally of Mr Xi's and for the last five years has been in charge of perhaps the most powerful but unseen party body, the Organisation Department.

It has the power to appoint and remove party officials anywhere in China.

It makes and breaks careers.

Mr Zhao is tipped to head the feared Central Commission for Discipline Inspection and continue Mr Xi's anti-corruption drive.

His work at the Organisation Department will prove useful in his new role.

Number seven: 63-year-old Han Zheng

He is currently party boss of Shanghai and is widely regarded as part of the Shanghai faction led by former president Jiang Zemin.

His appointment may be a concession by Mr Xi.

He is credited with restoring Shanghai to its former glory and seems to have won the trust of Mr Xi in the process.

One of the striking things about Mr Xi's new line up is that there is no anointed successor.

Usually at this time its clear who might become the next leader.

One of the telltale signs is an appointment of someone who is in their early 50s.

All the new members are in their sixties.

Many China watchers are convinced that Mr Xi will break with tradition and extend his rule.

The convention that has been in place since Deng Xiaoping is that presidents serve two five-year terms only.

Professor Willy Lam from Chinese University of Hong Kong says he will stay on until at least 2027.

"He is a big fan of Putin's so he will try to use so-called Putin model by staying on the scene … [while] his health permits," he said.

In theory Mr Xi could do this.

Xi's born-to-rule complex

China's constitution says a president can only serve two terms but there is no limit on the more powerful position of the Party General Secretary.

So even if Mr Xi does step down as President he can rule effectively from behind the scenes as head of the Party.

He also has the option to keep his position as head of the military as Mr Jiang did after he left office.

Professor Lam said Mr Xi was the ultimate politician, a skilled Machiavellian player "who is very good at pulling strings behind the scenes and is very good at building factions".

"He has wiped out the Shanghai and Communist Youth League faction and made his Xi Jinping faction the most powerful and influential in just five years."

And what is driving all this?

Professor David Zweig from Hong Kong's University of Science and Technology said Mr Xi had the ultimate born-to-rule complex.

Mr Xi is a princeling, son of a revolutionary, former vice-premier of China Xi Zhongxun.

"So maybe its just personal," Mr Zweig said.

"This guy has been groomed for power all his life, you can assume as a kid he watched his dad engage in political battle so he knows this stuff really, really well.

"He wants to ensure that the revolutionary generations and their linage maintain power so he has to consolidate his own power to do that."