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THE PATH TO POWER

Is this man being groomed for China’s next leadership transition in 2022?

ChinaThis article is more than 2 years old.
Getty Images / Mark Rawlston
Sun Zhengcai (right)

Sun Zhengcai’s star is rising. At 49, the baby-faced former party secretary of Jilin is not only the youngest of China’s newly appointed Politburo; he has now been made party secretary of Chongqing, the locale of the worst corruption scandal to hit China in decades. The post was vacated earlier this year when party high-flyer Bo Xilai resigned after revelations that he was involved in covering up the murder of a British businessman. Party secretary is the most powerful post in Chongqing, which is one of four municipalities in China that are governed directly by the central leadership in Beijing because of their national importance. Sun’s appointment supports the belief that he is one of the men being groomed to lead China in 2022 as part of the sixth generation of leadership. Hu Chunhua, older than Sun by a few months, is another. He is commonly referred to as “little Hu” because of his close alliance with outgoing president Hu Jintao.

There has been some speculation that Sun is a protégé of outgoing premier Wen Jiabao and therefore an ally of Hu Jintao’s populist faction. Unlike “princeling” Chinese officials raised in elite revolutionary families, Sun hails from family of farmers in Shandong province. Still, Sun has no obvious factional ties.

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