'Chess in an impenetrable black box': Who really holds the power in China?
Updated 0138 GMT (0938 HKT) October 10, 2017
(CNN)Unlike the gossipy, open democracies of Western societies, it is almost impossible to know who truly holds power in the opaque world of Chinese politics.
The country is ruled by the Chinese Communist Party, in a one-party system, making whoever occupies the highest positions in the party among the most powerful.
Power isn't just held by the politicians either -- influential businessmen and entrepreneurs, the pioneers of China's economic rise, are also fighting for a seat at the table.
As Beijing gets ready for the biggest event in China's political calendar, the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party on October 18, we polled 10 experts, asking them to pick who they thought were the top five most powerful people in China.
Their answers on who really pulls the strings were varied, and shed light on the upcoming Congress -- akin to a closed-door election when China's next generation leaders are expected to be unveiled.
Here's who makes up the top five, according to the policy advisers, academics and journalists we spoke to.
5. Li Keqiang
In theory, Premier Li is number two in China's power structure, but his influence is far from assured.
In 2012, he was appointed as the head of government in China, taking over as Premier and second only to Xi Jinping on the all-powerful Politburo Standing Committee.
"The general manager of the second largest economy in the world, he has dealt with the complex economic, social, and technological transformation of the largest country in the world," China politics expert Zhiyue Bo told CNN, who placed Li third on his list.
So why is he so far down the overall list?
"He's regarded as being a sort of low-profile, not particularly interlinked or interconnected premier. He's got probably the worst job in China. The premier is always going to be taking the rap for stuff," Kerry Brown, professor of Chinese politics at King's College London, told CNN.
A former governor of Henan province who earned a doctorate in economics at Peking University, Prime Minister Li was a protege of former President Hu Jintao and rose to power through Hu's power base in the Communist Youth League.
Brown added many of Li's patronage networks, such as the Youth League faction, are believed to have lost their power under Xi Jinping, whose base is mostly made up of the children of former party leaders, or "princelings."
"Of course he's got the State Council (the country's primary administrative authority and chaired by Li), of course he's influential, he's trying to get things done, but it's not a sort of political power. It's administrative power," he said.
"Power is a