China Leadership Monitor

After Hu, Who?—China's Provincial Leaders Await Promotion

Wednesday, January 30, 2002

China's provincial leadership is both a training ground for national leadership and a battleground among various political forces. Provincial chiefs currently carry much more weight than ever before in the history of the PRC. This is largely because the criteria for national leadership have shifted from revolutionary credentials such as participation in the Long March to administrative skills such as coalition-building. In addition, provincial governments now have more autonomy in advancing their own regional interests. Nonetheless, nepotism and considerations of factional politics are still evident in the recruitment of provincial leaders. Emerging top-level national leaders—including Hu Jintao, Zeng Qinghong, and Wen Jiabao—have all drawn on the pool of provincial leaders in building their factions, hoping to occupy more seats on the upcoming Sixteenth Central Committee and the Politburo. At the same time, new institutional mechanisms have been adopted to curtail various forms of nepotism. The unfolding of these contradictory trends will not only determine who will rule China after 2002, but even more importantly, how this most populous country in the world will be governed.