China’s governing Communist Party will launch the most significant makeover of its economic leadership in a decade next month, with a generation of reform-minded bureaucrats anticipated to stand down as growth prospects deteriorate.
Beijing’s once-every-five-year overhaul begins Oct. 16 with the party conference, where President Xi Jinping is expected to break with history and earn a third leadership term.
While top government officials are expected to remain in their positions until the annual parliament meeting in March, the party conclave is expected to provide clues on who is in line for top positions and identify who will succeed Li Keqiang, who steps down in March after two terms as premier, a position tasked with managing the world’s No.2 economy.
Li is widely perceived to have seen his role diminished under Xi but has nonetheless been a source of comfort to investors who view him as a moderate voice amid Xi’s shift towards state-driven economic management.
In addition to Li, 70-year-old economic czar Liu He and top banking regulator Guo Shuqing, 66, are also likely to step down early next year, policy sources said, with Xi, 69, expected to maintain retirement age norms for leaders other than himself.
Li, 67, holds a degree in economics from Peking University and speaks English fluently.
Liu, a vice premier and Harvard-educated economist, is Xi’s personal friend and point man in trade negotiations with Washington. He is regarded as the brains behind previous changes, such as the difficult attempts to decrease excess industry capacity and financial hazards.