Yang Zhang Profile picture
Oct 22, 2022 24 tweets 5 min read Read on X
What we just saw was the making of an All Xi's Men team, the breaking of decade-long rules, and the birth of an unlimited supreme leader. These are not entirely surprising, but Xi's grab of power is still beyond our expectation. He is now a truly modern emperor. 1/ Image
Xi will rule China for not one but at least two and likely three terms (15 years). He is "only" 69 year old: Mao ruled China until his death at 83 and Deng kept CMC Chair until 1989 when he was 85. So don't expect Xi to retire before 2037. Xi's power apex just started, today. 2/
No successor. Xi is too "young" to pick up a successor. His ministers have no interest in suggesting one. Potential candidates dare not imply it. Xi's future successor is now a nobody (who is not even in the Central Committee this time). Succession may not be an issue in 2027. 3/
The rule of age limit is gone, completely. All 67, Li Keqiang, Wang Yang, and Chen Quanguo retired, while Wang Huning stayed in PSC. Moreover, Wang Yi (69) and Zhang Youxia (72) will be in Politburo. Xi simply showcased his unlimited power by breaking the age limit rule. 4/
Premiership as we know is gone. WSJ was right to report Li Qiang as premier & I was wrong to suggest Wang Yang. This is unprecedented because of Li's lack of vice premiership or any central experience. Once Xi's chief of staff, Li will be his Chief Grand Secretary as premier. 5/
Old factions are all gone while new factions are in the making. Factional identities are flexible & dynamic. As I said earlier, the Youth League faction ceased to function 7-8 years ago. After the full victory of Xi's men, however, they will soon divide and contend for power. 6/
Zhang Youxia's stay in Politburo is astonishing but has significant values for Xi. 1) Zhang is 72, even older than Li Zhanshu. 2) Zhang's stay makes Xi not the oldest Politburo member. 3) Zhang's and Xi's fathers were close comrades. 4) Zhang will be Xi's prince in PLA. 7/
Li Qiang's premiership is not only unprecedented but also showcases to everyone that loyalty rather than popularity is the key for your promotion. The disaster of Shanghai Lockdown did not stop Li's elevation precisely because he followed Xi's order despite all criticism. 8/9
Li Qiang's premierships also shows how Xi trained his close aide to this position. In the last decade, Li Qiang was governor of Zhejiang (2012) and party secretaries of Jiangsu (2016) and Shanghai (2017). In PRC history, Li is the only person who has ruled these three places. 9/
Li Qiang's rich experience in running three rich provinces may be a good thing. However, his lack of vice premiership or any central working experience means that he has to rely upon Xi's authority to run the state council. Li will be a perfect technocrat for the emperor. 10/
If Li Qiang and Ding Xuexiang indeed become premier and executive vice premier as WJS reported, they will both be Xi's technocrats, secretaries, & servants. These two top leaders of the State Council were Xi's chiefs of staff in Zhejiang and Shanghai & the Central Office. 11/
If Xi's two secretaries lead the State Council, this not only means the change of the Premiership but also the change of the nature of State Council. It will no longer be parallel with the Party, but simply one many institutions under the leadership of the Party, and of Xi. 12/
We will likely see a stronger Central Secretariat (中央书记处) as Xi's coordinating institution to guide all other agencies, including State Council. In 1956-1966, Deng Xiaoping was Chairman Mao's General Secretary and coordinated other leaders including Premier Zhou Enlai. 13/ Image
The Central Secretariat will be more like the Grand Council (军机处), established by Emperor Yongzheng of the Qing Empire. It was an inner decision-making organ and directly served the emperors. All other outer ministries or agencies simply implemented its orders. 14/ Image
The WJS report didn't say who would lead the Central Secretariat, but a strong candidate is the now Beijing Secretary Cai Qi. In 2014-17, Cai served as the deputy General Office chief of the National Security Commission, chaired by Xi. Cai simply returned to his old role. 15/
Another candidate to lead the Central Secretariat is Chongqing Secretary Chen Miner, who is younger (62) than Cai (67). Either being Cai or Chen, he will simply be Xi's Chief Servant in the Politburo and deliver Xi's orders to other agencies. We will see the result tonight. 16/
Let's continue: I must first say I don’t have any special information or sensational stories. My analysis is based on publicly available information. It might be wrong precisely because my information is as limited as yours. My tool is historical and theoretical knowledge.
Li Qiang is the new premier; Zhao Leji is NPC Chairman; Wang Huning is CPPCC chairman; Cai Qi will lead the Central Secretariat; Ding will be the executive Vice premier; Li Xi is Secretary of the Commission for Discipline Inspection. WSJ is right. Cai Qi is the seventh. 17/
The Seven. Image
As mentioned earlier, Cai Qi is a strong candidate for the Central Secretariat and he has indeed made it. Cai now returned to his old role to serve Xi in this decision-making organ. Cai was not popular as Party Secretary in Beijing, but again, loyalty trumped popularity. 18/
As said one month ago, Hu Chunhua was not a successor any more. "He also has little chance to be premier. His PSC membership isn't secured. He may end with the worst position in the Politburo: NPC Vice Chair." Old assumptions about factionalism and succession must be dropped. 19/
Our narrative could be subtler: this PSC does not mean that Xi will become an omnipotent supreme leader and can do anything. Above all, his unlimited power will be constrained by his limited capacity and decreasing energy as he turns older. Remember Mao or Emperor Qian Long? 20/
Plus, Xi’s full control means his team will be fully responsible for any policy mistake. His autocracy may provoke stronger international pushback from the US-led Western countries. All of these scenarios will make his third and likely fourth terms not as easy as expected. 21/
For the first time since 1997, there was not a single female member in the Politburo. Simply speechless! So sad and shocked! Image

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More from @ProfYangZhang

Nov 27, 2022
Contentious politics is exciting for its eventfulness, newness, and creativity. This wave of multi-site protests in China is spontaneous, novel, and epic. It is still unfolding; its ending and consequences are uncertain. We may only offer a tentative analysis of its causes. 1/
In the past weeks, we saw violent labor protests in Zhengzhou, contentions mourning the deaths in Urumqi, the spread of the mourning protests in other cities, the campus protest in Nanjing Media College and other universities, and massive online protests (& censoring). 2/
More strikingly, new slogans, symbols, and tactics emerged out of this wave of protests. We saw solidarity of Han and minorities in Xinjiang, “Xi Jinping Step Down” in Shanghai, white paper in multiple campuses, and “freedom” & “democracy,” words disappearing for 30 years. 3/
Read 12 tweets
Nov 27, 2022
Protest on Tsinghua campus. This is very rare after 1989.
The Zijing dining hall, one of Tsinghua’s largest dinning halls.
Read 4 tweets
Oct 28, 2022
Chen Jining and Li Ganjie's promotion seems like a victory for environment protection, because Chen chaired that ministry in 2015-17 & Li chaired in 2017-2020. Chen studied environmental science in Tsinghua & Imperial College London & is a renowned environmental scientist. 1/ Image
So my story is more than "once upon a time in Tsinghua"; it is also about environmental governance, which has become increasingly important in China since 2000s. More than passive or performative governance, environmental governance is provocative and substantive in China. 2/
You may also ask: where is Pan Yue, Vice minister of environmental protection (2003-2016) and a charismatic leader in environmental governance. Pan left this field in 2016, but his stories of fighting against interest groups and powerful politicians remained legendary. 3/ Image
Read 6 tweets
Oct 23, 2022
To study Chinese politics, a pressing issue is knowing the emperor. What is emperor? How did emperorship work as an institution? How did he work with prime ministers, grand secretaries, and grand councilors? An empire perspective is indispensable. Here, I offer key readings. 1/
Chinese Historian Qian Mu's Merits and Weakness of the Political System in Dynastic China (中国历代政治得失) remains the most insightful and important work on the changing nature of emperorship and its relationship with premiership over Chinese dynasties. Highly recommended. 2/
Ray Huang's 1587: A Year of No Significance has fascinating stories and analysis about Ming Emperor Wanli and his troubled relationships with his Chief Grand Secretary Zhang Juzheng and other actors. So does Philip Kuhn's Soulstealers, a study of Qing Emperor Qianlong. 3/
Read 15 tweets
Oct 23, 2022
I began to accept media interviews this October and have been glad to work with many reporters and editors. I thank the opportunity to share my thoughts on elite politics based upon my knowledge in history and theory. This thread will update some latest reports that quoted me. 1/
I was quoted in this story about Wang Yang, who "surprisingly" retired. For me, Wang Yang "demonstrated his flexibility, opportunism and competence" in different local and ministerial positions. Wang's leave signaled how strong Xi controlled the party. 2/
I discussed with @simonelmc what Xi's grab of power meant: "power transition in the 20th Party Congress offered (Xi) an opportunity to completely reshuffle the (Standing Committee) and to place his close associates to most – if not all – positions.” 3/
Read 16 tweets
Oct 21, 2022
I had a nice conversation with @JNBPage @TheEconomist. This analysis includes my comments about China's succession or the lack thereof. After the otherwise fragile rule is undermined, there will be many possible scenarios of succession crisis. 1/
Quote in this essay: “There will be power fragmentation and struggle after Xi’s rule,” predicts Yang Zhang of American University in Washington. “Without basic rules, succession means struggle. It’s just about when, and who will be involved.” 2/
In effect, succession was not even fully institutionalized in 2012. That seemingly smooth leadership transition was the contingent result of the power balance between Jiang and Hu rather than designed institutionalization. It's an accident rather than a plan. 3/
Read 7 tweets

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