Potential shake-up in Xi Jinping’s leadership team at China’s 20th Communist Party Congress
The role is especially important as China faces economic headwinds with an ailing property sector and fallout from its zero-COVID policy.
Analysts said that frontrunners for the role are typically among those who have experience as vice premier.
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If age is not a factor, experts suggest that 70-year-old Vice Premier Liu He, who has led trade negotiations with the US and is a close confidante of Mr Xi, could be a contender.
Executive Vice Premier Han Zheng, 68, could be another pick if he does not retire.
Wang Yang, 67, chairman of political advisory body the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) and ranked fourth on the Standing Committee, is also expected to be in the running.
Vice Premier Hu Chunhua, the youngest member of the Politburo at 59, also appears to be a potential candidate, according to analysts. Despite coming from a rival faction – the Communist Party Youth League – the former Guangdong party secretary rose through the ranks and spearheaded Mr Xi’s poverty alleviation programme.
“Inside the Communist Party, factions have always been existing, and I don’t think they will vanish in a short time,” said Dr Chen Gang, an assistant director of the East Asian Institute at the National University of Singapore.
“Because they have organisational support and interest support, they represent different systems, different regions, and different kinds of thinking ideology inside the party.”
However, Mr Chen said that as Mr Xi further consolidates his power and enters his third term, no faction is really tied to him anymore and therefore “they will all show their loyalty”.
The remaining vacancies on the Standing Committee are likely to go to rising stars who enjoy close ties with Mr Xi.