The new Standing Committee includes a more diverse group with backgrounds that include law, economics and history. Several of the men spent their formative years witnessing the suffering that resulted from the Cultural Revolution’s policy disasters. The new leaders can also draw on much greater administrative experience, with most having run two or more large provinces with populations and economies equal to those of small European nations.
“This is the result of a deliberate push for greater administrative capacity at the top,” said Robert Kuhn, author of a biography of Jiang.
The new leaders also might prove less beholden, at least superficially, to China’s old ideology. In his first address Thursday as the nation’s top leader, Xi Jinping neglected to include the usual boilerplate references to communist theories of the past.
“When I met Xi during his time in Zhejiang,” Kuhn said, “he told me: ‘I follow the ideologies of Marx, Mao Zedong, Deng Xiaoping, Jiang and Hu, but I don’t sit around all day thinking about these theories. I’m trying to run a government.’ ”
Another looming factor from Thursday’s announcement is the newly appointed Politburo team. Now within its ranks are the leaders who will compete in five years to replace retiring members of the new Standing Committee; they will also vie for the top spot when Xi retires in 10 years.
Although Hu lost the battle over Standing Committee seats, he successfully seeded the Politburo with several possible proteges. By the next transition,
Jiang, now 86, may be long gone, clearing the way for Hu to reassert authority.
But some cast doubt on that scenario, given Hu’s poor performance this time around.
“You see how badly Hu got his clock cleaned during this party congress, and it’s a sign that he never truly consolidated that power,” said Shambaugh, of George Washington University.
Others noted that much can change over a decade. By then, other party elders — not to mention Xi — are likely to be pushing forward proteges of their own.
Liu Liu, Wang Juan and Zhang Jie contributed to this report.