All men and all over 60: Meet China's new ruling line-up

New seven-member leadership committee in China
New seven-member leadership committee in China

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Story highlights

  • Xi installed old-guard leaders in his leadership reshuffle
  • No potential successor was anointed, analysts say

Steven Jiang is CNN's Beijing senior producer. He has reported from China since 2001.

Beijing (CNN)President Xi Jinping has unveiled a new lineup for China's all-powerful Politburo Standing Committee (PBSC), the ruling Communists' top decision-making body in a one-party political system.

Xi's announcement came Wednesday, a day after the close of the Communist Party National Congress, held twice a decade with a leadership reshuffle at the top of its agenda.
    With the five new members of the PBSC aged 60 or above, no heir apparent to Xi was anointed, breaking with recent custom and prompting speculation that Xi would seek to stay in power beyond 2022 when his second five-year term is due to end.
    Here are the seven men (in order of their party seniority) who will rule 1.4 billion people for the next five years.
    Chinese President Xi Jinping, whose real power is rooted in his position as the head of the nearly 90-million strong Communist Party and the party-controlled military, is here to stay.
    Since he took over the party at its 18th National Congress in 2012, Xi, 64, has increasingly tightened his grip over the vast country, chairing numerous super-commissions that he created to take charge of both domestic and foreign policies.
    Although the Chinese constitution limits the president to two five-year terms, no comparable restriction exists for the party chief.
    Already hailed as the most powerful -- and hardline -- Chinese leader in decades, Xi's re-election as the party's head, coupled with the fact that no apparent successors were named in the new PBSC, point to the growing possibility of him staying on beyond 2022.
    With Xi emerging stronger than ever out of the party congress, he would likely find the timing opportune to greet visiting US President Donald Trump in November.
    Chinese Premier Li Keqiang has seen his political fortune fall -- and then rebound under Xi.
    China's No. 2 leader, who runs the day-to-day operations of the government, is technically in charge of the world's second-largest economy but has long been overshadowed by his dominant and omnipresent boss.
    A trained economist, Li, 62, is often considered a reformer and belonging to the so-called Communist Youth League faction under the patronage of Xi's predecessor, former President Hu Jintao.
    Once rumored to be on his way out, Li seems to have proven his loyalty to Xi and regained his visibility in state media in recent months -- a fact underscored by his stay in the PBSC and the all-but-certain retention of his premiership.
    Xi's right-hand man Li Zhanshu has occupied a position that's often compared to the White House chief of staff. His new-gained No. 3 spot in the party hierarchy makes him the likely next chairman of China's rubber-stamp parliament, according to political tradition.
    The two men go way back when both were young party officials in neighboring rural counties in Hebei province in the early 1980s, according to their official biographies.
    After serving several major provincial posts, including party chief in Guizhou province, Li, 67, was handpicked by Xi to run his office shortly before the Chinese leader took power in late 2012.
    The usually low-profile Li was thrust into an unflattering media spotlight last summer when a columnist for Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post wrote about the huge wealth owned or managed by his family, insinuating official corruption amid an unrelenting anti-graft campaign spearheaded by Xi.
    The newspaper has since pulled the story but many readers remain divided over whether the retraction was based on editorial standards or political pressure.
    Wang Yang, the Chinese vice premier who is likely to head the country's top political advisory body soon, is often seen a reform-minded straight shooter.
    After working under two former premiers who were considered reformers, Wang, 62, rose through the ranks quickly in the Hu Jintao era to become the top official in Chongqing and then Guangdong, China's manufacturing heartland.
    Since joining the cabinet, Wang has presided over several rounds Sino-US talks on sticky economic and trade issues.
    He was viewed as being close to Hu and was rumored to be a PBSC contender in 2012. Five years on, his patience, perseverance and, perhaps, Hu's lingering influence have finally paid off.
    Wang Huning's political longevity is seen as a testament to his indispensable role as the so-called chief strategist of Zhongnanhai, the heavily guarded Chinese leadership compound in central Beijing that's China's equivalent of the White House.
    Having served under three presidents (Jiang, Hu and now Xi), this professor turned politician is known for his talent in turning a Chinese leader's ideas into methodical thoughts and theories.
    As the head of the party's central policy think tank, Wang, 62, mostly works away from the public eye but has increasingly been seen accompanying Xi on important overseas visits, prompting observers to call him a prominent "Xi convert," who is now expected to be in charge of the party's internal affairs and propaganda machine.
    Trained as a political scientist, the Shanghai native taught at his alma mater, Fudan University in his hometown, for years and spent time in the US as an exchange scholar.
    Former President Jiang Zemin moved Wang to the capital in 1995 and installed him in the policy think tank -- and he's never been far from the center of Chinese power ever since.
    Zhao Leji, a previously under-the-radar politician, will wield outsized power in the party as he inherits one of the most powerful roles in Chinese politics.
    A native of the remote region of Qinghai, Zhao, 60, worked his way up in his home province for nearly three decades, before being appointed the party chief of Shaanxi province, Xi's ancestral home.
    He joined the Politburo and moved to Beijing five years ago when Xi took power at the last party congress.
    Now, he's officially taken over the party's fearsome anti-corruption arm, responsible for cracking down on graft in the party -- an issue that has become a lightning rod for public discontent and a top priority for Xi in the past five years (more to neuter political rivals than to root out bad apples, according to critics).
    Shanghai party chief Han Zheng is the ultimate survivor in Chinese politics, having served under multiple bosses from rival factions, including Xi himself.
    Born and raised in China's largest city, Han, 63, was a longtime Shanghai mayor who has largely focused his career on growing the city's economy and restoring its former glory as a global financial center.
    Despite being frequently listed as a member of the so-called Shanghai clique, headed by former President Jiang Zemin, Han seems to have won the trust of Xi during the short period of seven months that the two men worked together in the city.
    Occasionally mentioned as a potential premier, Han is now likely to serve as Li Keqiang's top lieutenant instead.