The upcoming Chinese National Party Congress will convene on October 18th 2017. In the secretive world of Chinese politics, who’re the people who wield the most power?
The history of China can be traced back to 1500 BC under the Shang dynasty. Much of China’s culture was developed during the Zhou dynasty (1046–256 BC). The Qing dynasty which ruled from 1644 to 1911/12, was overthrown due to a military uprising. The provisional government of the Republic of China was formed in Nanjing on 12 March 1912.
China is governed under a one-party system. The Communist Party of China is the sole governing party in the country. It was founded in 1921 by by Chen Duxiu and Li Dazhao. The nation also has eight other legal parties who are not the governing party. Together they form the United Front. The United Front does not hold any actual power within China and are subservient to the CPC.
Presently, China is the second largest economy in the world by nominal GDP. It is both the largest economy in the world and the largest exporter of goods. The region is the world’s largest consumer market and it is the second largest importer in the world. Between 2013 and 2015, China was the top trading nation in the world. It is one of the fastest developing nations in the world.
The leaders within CPC generally are considered amongst the most powerful people in China. However, power also exists with rich businessmen who aided in the economic growth of the nation.
The upcoming Chinese National Party Congress will convene on October 18th 2017. It will decide the immediate future of the nation as leaders of the Communist Party of China come together to discuss the future of the nation. It occurs only once in five years. For a more detailed history of the National Congress, click here.
Given that China is not a democracy, it is hard to decipher who’s in actual power in the nation. For instance, up until a few months ago, Sun Zhengcai, a senior official was considered a rising star within the party. Some even touted that he could potentially become the next Premier. However, in 2017, he was abruptly removed from office and is currently under investigation by the CCDI for “discipline violations.”
Here are some of the most powerful men in China as it stands today:
The anti-graft tsar is generally considered the second most powerful man in China. He is the Secretary of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection. The CCDI is the highest internal-control institution of the Communist Party of China (CPC). He also concurrently serves as a member of the seven-man Politburo Standing Committee. He’s held this position since 2012. The Politburo Standing Committee is China’s highest decision-making body. The future of his tenure with the Politburo will be decided during the Congress. If he does not retire, he will continue being a powerful and reclusive force in China.
Internet in China is highly censored. Hence, apps like WhatsApp and Facebook are not available at all times. However, Huateng’s WeChat app is used by nearly everyone in China. It is a combination of Twitter and Facebook. He is China’s third richest man. Tom Rafferty, China regional manager for the Economist Intelligence Unit said, “He wields massive influence because of the ubiquitous use of WeChat ... Several powerful business leaders have had their wings clipped in recent years, but the technology sector has so far escaped relatively unscathed.”
Second to only Xi Jinping, Jack Ma is one of the most recognizable faces in China. He is the CEO of the highly successful ecommerce service called Alibaba and is the richest man in Asia. His net worth is above $46.9 billion. He is also a political force to be reckoned with both recent US Presidents – Donald Trump and Barack Obama. His business continues to grow from strength to strength. Willy Lam, adjunct professor at Center for China Studies at Chinese University of Hong Kong said, “(Ma) has displayed vision and gusto in expanding his e-commerce empire. Even more striking is his determination to leverage Alibaba's massive earnings to spearhead research in high-tech, particularly AI, cloud computing, "deep learning" and related know-how."
The current President of China, Xi Jinping is expected to comfortably be elected for another tenure. In fact, he has become so powerful, that experts have begun speculating if he shall retain power beyond a decade. Some have noted that the President has used the anti-corruption campaign to crack down on his political rivals and those who threaten his power and standing. Jeffrey Wasserstrom, professor of history at University of California, Irvine joked, “The five most powerful people are the head of the party, the president, the commander in chief, the author of the book that gets the best display spots in the bookstores these days, and the guy the People's Daily hails as China's most astute commentator on globalization -- in other words Xi, Xi, Xi, Xi, and Xi.”
Our assessment is that at present the only person with power in China is the President Xi Jinping. Even though businessmen like Jack Ma wield considerable influence, the anti-corruption graft has taken down similarly successful men when they threatened the status-quo in China. Wang Qishan as the man spearheading the anti-corruption campaign can make or break future Premiers. However, he remains deeply loyal to Jinping. Currently, the only person who can decide the course of the election is Jinping himself.