19th Party Congress: Who is Zhao Leji, new chief of China's anti-graft watchdog

Mr Zhao Leji, head of the Organisation Department of the Communist Party of China, speaking in Beijing. PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING - Rising political star Zhao Leji was elected on Wednesday (Oct 25) the chief of the Central Committee for Discipline Inspection (CCDI), the Chinese Communist Party's top anti-graft watchdog.

He was elected head of the CCDI, taking over from Mr Wang Qishan. The confirmation that Mr Wang will no longer helms the powerful agency came when his name was not found on the list of new CCDI members announced on Tuesday (Oct 24) at the closing of the 19th Party Congress.

Mr Wang, 69, was also not the the list for the party's new Central Committee, from which the next-level Politburo and Politburo Standing Committee (PSC) will be drawn. Mr Wang's absence from the lists indicates that he will retire from the PSC.

Mr Zhao, who used to head the Chinese Communist Party's influential organisation department in charge of personnel matters, and Mr Li Zhanshu were reported to be in the running to become the new CCDI chief.

Bur Mr Li, President Xi Jinping's chief of staff, was not on the list of new CCDI members although he is on the 19th Central Committee elected on Tuesday by the 2,300 party delegates to the congress - held once every five year.

Mr Zhao has no strong factional ties when appointed to the party's powerful Politburo in 2012, but hails from President Xi's home province of Shaanxi.

Mr Zhao was Shaanxi's party secretary from 2007 to 2012.

He is now seen as one of Mr Xi's close confidants and part of the rising Shaanxi clique of leaders from the north-western province, on whom Mr Xi appears to rely.

Mr Zhao, 60, also entered the Politburo Standing Committee (PSC) whose line-up was unveiled on Wednesday (Oct 25).

Mr Zhao was 42 years old when he first took the post of Qinghai governor in 2000, becoming the youngest governor in the country.

When he was promoted to party secretary, he was also the country's youngest provincial party secretary.

After Qinghai, Mr Zhao was transferred to Shaanxi province, where he served as party secretary.

He was born in Xining city in Qinghai province and his ancestral home is Xi'an in Shaanxi province.

Mr Zhao joined the Chinese Communist Party in 1975. During the Cultural Revolution, he was among the millions of "sent-down youth" deployed to the countryside to be remoulded by hard labour.

He has a degree in philosophy from Peking University.

Mr Zhao was in Singapore earlier this year for the 6th Singapore-China Forum on Leadership.

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