Question 1 of 4 in China Politics
Started Mar 18, 2021 01:00PM UTC   •   Closing Jan 01, 2023 04:59AM UTC

Will Hu Chunhua be a member of the Standing Committee of the Politburo of the Chinese Communist Party's Central Committee on December 31, 2022?

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Context. The Chinese Communist Party is set to select a new Standing Committee of the 25-member Politburo of its ~370-member Central Committee at a meeting that will be held right after the 20th Party Congress, likely in October or November 2022. This Politburo Standing Committee (PBSC) is the country’s top leadership group. It usually has seven members, although its membership has varied from five to nine in the post-Mao era. 

Xi Jinping, who has been the Party’s paramount leader and top-ranked PBSC member since the 18th Party Congress in November 2012, has centralized power to an extent unseen since perhaps Mao Zedong, and is likely to secure a norm-defying third term as General Secretary in 2022. But given the opaque nature of intra-Party negotiations on leadership appointments, questions remain as to the full extent of his authority. Whether Xi can install more of his political allies onto the next PBSC will be a key indicator of his political power.

While Xi, who turns 69 years old in 2022, would have to exempt himself from a 20-year-old norm that cadres aged 68 or older are not appointed to a new PBSC term, such exemptions were not forthcoming for close Xi allies at the 19th Party Congress in 2017. Therefore, if only Xi gets an age exemption, then two PBSC members will retire in 2022 (although it’s also possible that some younger members will fail to win reselection). Past practice indicates that new members on the next PBSC will almost certainly be selected from the current Politburo.

Hu Chunhua has been seen for many years as a rising star in Chinese politics. He serves on the Politburo as one of four Vice Premiers of the State Council, the administrative leadership group of the Chinese central government. He is the youngest Politburo member (he will turn 59 in 2022) and is the only Vice Premier not due to retire in 2022. The current Premier (and number-two ranked PBSC member), Li Keqiang, is constitutionally barred from serving another term, and, since the late 1980s, a new Premier has always been selected from among the serving Vice Premiers. Hu could secure a place on the next PBSC as the next Premier. 

But Xi’s personalized power and preference for elevating political allies has cast doubt on the persistence of previous norms. Hu is not seen as close to Xi, and his political rise is linked to the once-powerful but now-weakened Communist Youth League faction. Xi may want to block Hu’s ascension to the PBSC or be accepting of Hu taking a PBSC position below that of Premier. If Hu became Premier, it could be a signal that Xi faces intra-Party checks on his power.

Resolution details. This question resolves based on the leadership positions listed on the website of People’s Daily, the official mouthpiece of the Chinese Communist Party’s Central Committee. 

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This question was contributed by Neil Thomas and Jordan Schneider.

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Name Probability
Yes 68%

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