Prelude to CPC’s 20th Party Congress in 2022: Seven new provincial party secretaries appointed

A year ahead of the Communist Party of China’s 20th Party Congress in autumn 2022, a round of promotions and game of musical chairs is at play again among provincial party secretaries. Which are the stars to look out for?
People walk along a street in Beijing, China, on 12 October 2021. (Noel Celis/AFP)
People walk along a street in Beijing, China, on 12 October 2021. (Noel Celis/AFP)

On 19 October, China announced the appointment of new party secretaries for the seven provinces and autonomous regions of Hunan, Jiangsu, Tibet, Heilongjiang, Jiangxi, Guangxi and Yunnan.*

Among them, newly-appointed Hunan party secretary Zhang Qingwei has been a member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) for four terms, and is expected to enter the Politburo of the CPC at the 20th Party Congress next autumn.    

Aerospace expert Zhang Qingwei draws attention

In this round of provincial party secretary reshuffles, Zhang, known as an expert in the aerospace field, has garnered most attention.  

Zhang Qingwei. (Internet)
Newly-appointed Hunan party secretary Zhang Qingwei. (Internet)

Sixty-year-old Zhang has 23 years of working experience in the aerospace field and was once deputy chief commander of China’s manned spaceflight programme. In 2007 when he was 46 years old, he became director of the State Commission of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense, a ministerial position. With that appointment, he also became one of the youngest ministers across China’s national ministries at that time, and is considered an outstanding senior official among the post-60s generation.    

In 2012, Zhang was appointed governor of Hebei and assumed the role of Heilongjiang party secretary in 2017. Analysts note that he has been a member of the Central Committee of the CPC from 2002 (16th Central Committee) to 2017 (19th Central Committee), and has also served as a core leader at the local party and government level for over ten years, assuming the role of party secretary of two provinces. Usually, to gain promotion from a local party leader to a member of the Politburo, one must have served as party secretary of more than two provinces. Now that Zhang has been appointed as Hunan party secretary, this criteria would be fulfilled.    

New Jiangsu party secretary Wu Zhenglong

As Jiangsu is one of China’s largest provincial economies, the political position of Jiangsu’s party secretary is often ranked higher than those in most other provinces. Newly-appointed Jiangsu party secretary Wu Zhenglong was once director of China National Machinery Industry Corporation and secretary to former Chongqing mayor Bao Xuding.

Following Bao Xuding’s retirement in 2002, Wu became mayor of Chongqing’s Wanzhou district. In 2007 when Wang Yang, current chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) National Committee, was Chongqing party secretary, Wu was promoted to become a member of the Standing Committee of Chongqing Municipal Committee and the party secretary of Wanzhou, becoming a senior official of deputy- provincial and ministerial rank.

Bo Xilai and Sun Zhengcai were removed from their posts in 2012 and 2017 respectively, but it clearly did not affect Wu’s political career.

Wu Zhenglong. (Internet)
Newly-appointed Jiangsu party secretary Wu Zhenglong. (Internet)

After 2007, Wu worked under the leadership of Bo Xilai and Sun Zhengcai, who were both Chongqing party secretaries. Wu was also secretary-general of Chongqing Municipal Committee under the leadership of Sun Zhengcai, but left the post in 2014 to become a member of the Standing Committee of Shanxi Provincial Committee and the party secretary of Taiyuan.

Bo Xilai and Sun Zhengcai were removed from their posts in 2012 and 2017 respectively, but it clearly did not affect Wu’s political career. After 2017, he was promoted from Nanjing party secretary to Jiangsu governor, and has now just been promoted again to Jiangsu party secretary. As he is only 57 years old, there is still time for further promotions in his political career.

Diverse backgrounds and experience

Fifty-eight-year-old Wang Junzheng was previously political commissar of the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps and deputy party secretary of Xinjiang, possessing working experience in areas with ethnic minorities. His main job as newly-appointed Tibet party secretary is to safeguard Tibet’s social stability.

Sixty-year-old Xu Qin was previously Shenzhen party secretary and has relatively more experience working in developed regions. In 2017 when Chinese President Xi Jinping proposed the construction of the Xiong’an New Area as a “millenium plan”, Xu was appointed as Hebei governor to oversee the development of the Xiong’an New Area.

Xu Qin, Wang Junzheng. (Internet)
Newly-appointed Heilongjiang party secretary Xu Qin (left), and Tibet party secretary Wang Junzheng. (Internet)

Fifty-nine-year-old Liu Ning was previously deputy minister of the water resources ministry and became deputy party secretary of Qinghai in 2017. The next year, he was promoted to become the governor of Qinghai and later became the governor of Liaoning in 2020. 

Sixty-year-old Wang Ning became a member of the Standing Committee of Fujian Provincial Party Committee in 2015, and was made Fuzhou party secretary later. He became governor of Fujian in 2020.       

Born in 1959, Yi Lianhong is the only post-50s generation to be promoted in this leadership reshuffle. Sixty-two-year-old Yi is fast approaching the ministerial retirement age of 65. His appointment as Jiangxi party secretary could be the peak of his political career.  

Wang, Liu, Yi.
From left: Newly-appointed Yunnan party secretary Wang Ning (CNS), Jiangxi party secretary Yi Lianhong (Internet), and Guangxi party secretary Liu Ning (CNS).

Acting Jiangsu governor Xu Kunlin is 56 years old this year. In 2017, he was sent to Shanghai from his original post at the National Development and Reform Commission and took office as Shanghai vice mayor. In September 2020, he became a member of the Standing Committee of Jiangsu Provincial Party Committee and party secretary of Suzhou. His new appointment is his third promotion in four years.     

Fifty-six-year-old Ye Jianchun has worked in the water conservancy field for many years. In February this year, from his position as deputy minister of water resources, he became the deputy party secretary of Jiangxi.   

Former provincial party secretaries who have relinquished their roles are mostly those fast approaching or have already reached the ministerial retirement age and are now taking the backseat. Overall, this round of leadership reshuffles is part of expected personnel changes ahead of the CPC’s 20th Party Congress next year.


*Xinhua News Agency elaborated that Zhang Qingwei, the former party secretary of Heilongjiang, has replaced Xu Dazhe as Hunan’s party secretary. In other appointments, Jiangsu governor Wu Zhenglong has been appointed Jiangsu‘s party secretary, replacing Lou Qinjian; former Xinjiang deputy party secretary Wang Junzheng has been appointed the Tibet party secretary, replacing Wu Yingjie; Hebei governor Xu Qin has replaced Zhang as Heilongjiang party secretary; Jiangxi governor Yi Lianhong has been appointed Jiangxi party secretary, replacing Liu Qi; Liaoning governor Liu Ning has been appointed Guangxi party secretary, replacing Lu Xinshe; and Fujian governor Wang Ning has been appointed Yunnan party secretary, replacing Ruan Chengfa. 

At the same time, Xu Kunlin, a member of the Standing Committee of Jiangsu Provincial Party Committee and the party secretary of Suzhou, has been appointed acting Jiangsu governor, while Ye Jianchun, deputy Jiangxi party secretary, has been appointed secretary of Jiangxi’s party leadership group, and will become Jiangxi governor.

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