China politics: Quick View - Wang Qishan looks set for post of vice-president

Content Type
Country Data and Maps
Institution
Economist Intelligence Unit
Abstract
No abstract is available.
Topic
Politics, News Analysis, Forecast, Election watch
Political Geography
China

Event

On January 29th Hunan province announced that it had selected the former anti-corruption tsar, Wang Qishan, as one of its delegates to the annual session of the National People's Congress (NPC, the legislature) in March.

Analysis

Mr Wang's selection confirms that he is set to play an important role in politics despite his apparent retirement at the 19th national congress of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in October 2017. Speculation that Mr Wang-who is 69 years old-would be allowed to break the unofficial retirement age of 68 was quashed when he stepped down from the CCP politburo standing committee (PSC) and relinquished his leadership of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI), a powerful CCP watchdog. However, his appointment as an NPC delegate suggests that he is set for a post in the reshuffled administration-probably that of state vice-president.

We had expected the president, Xi Jinping, to retain Mr Wang in some capacity. Mr Wang was a trusted lieutenant of the president after Mr Xi came to power in 2012, and as head of the CCDI he ruthlessly implemented Mr Xi's anti-corruption campaign, which netted tens of thousands of officials. His stint at the CCDI cemented the outsized reputation he holds within Chinese officialdom, forged through extensive experience in regional government and stints covering the financial sector and international economic policy. Mr Wang has also been a favoured interlocutor for foreign governments and companies.

If Mr Wang is named vice-president at the NPC, he can be expected to revive the office, which has languished under its out-of-favour incumbent, Li Yuanchao. While Mr Wang's lack of a top position in the CCP is a potential constraint on his power, reports have suggested that he is still informally attending PSC meetings and retains close ties to Mr Xi. In addition, Mr Wang is likely to play a role primarily in international diplomacy, especially in US-China relations; he once headed the Chinese side of an annual bilateral economic dialogue. Despite his experience and US contacts, however, we expect that ongoing structural factors may limit Mr Wang's efforts to defuse growing bilateral tensions.

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