Editor's note: This is the first installment of a four-part series on China's political future. Click to read part two.
Within weeks, China will unveil its new generation of leaders. By that time, the reshuffling of the Party's most senior positions — including on the Politburo Standing Committee and on the roughly 200-member Central Committee — will be finalized. As a result of Chongqing Party chief Bo Xilai's dismissal and the subsequent political fallout, competition over the top positions was more visible to the public and perhaps more heated than any transition in the two decades that the transitions have taken place.
Since the founding of the People's Republic of China, the Standing Committee has experienced significant fluctuations in its authority. Under Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping, the Standing Committee was often dominated by a single politician or was superseded by a few Party elders. Consequently, the committee's actual decision-making capacity was often limited. It was not until the early 1990s, after Deng's retirement, that the Standing Committee was restored as the country's highest political body, that the generational leadership transition was set up and that the rule of an individual gave way to a collective-based model of rule.
In order to preserve internal stability in the new model, the Party has sought to balance representation of the different factions and interests in the top echelon of leaders. It has also had to ensure that consensus can be reached in all decision-making to prevent factional politics and power struggles from disrupting the entire Party and political system. The shape of the Standing Committee and other decision-making bodies is a result of these needs for consensus, and their ability to withstand intense debate in part explains how, despite the political upheaval of the past decades, the Party's system has remained largely intact.Background: Born in Zhejiang, Yu joined the CPC in 1964. He studied at the Harbin Institute of Military Engineering.
Regional Service: He served in Shandong, Hubei and Shanghai.
Institutional/Personal Affiliation: Yu is a princeling from a powerful family with a strong cross-factional network.
Notes: Enormous political capital, a powerful family background and an intensive personal network with ties to Xi, Jiang and Deng Xiaoping made Yu one of the strongest candidates for the Standing Committee. Yu is known for enduring a number of political crises. His influential role among Party elites, political reliability and perceived open-mindedness give him strong prospects for a senior position. Nonetheless, his last chance to rise to the top political circle — he is 67 years old — was likely marred by the defection in 1985 of his brother, Yu Qiangsheng; earlier this year, the arrest of an alleged spy led to a reshuffling of the Ministry of State Security, reminding many of Yu Qiangsheng's defection. The reduction of the Standing Committee from nine to seven seats provided a politically neutral way to keep Yu Zhengsheng off the committee. Meanwhile, due to his age (Yu is the oldest candidate) and political influence, Yu may have been considered for a position more as a way to assist incoming leaders through his network and political resources.