Xi allies at the helm in Shanghai and Guangdong

Mr Li Xi, like President Xi Jinping, was a "sent-down youth" during the tumultuous Cultural Revolution. Mr Li Qiang is one of four Politburo members in their 50s described as China's "sixth-generation leaders".
Mr Li Qiang is one of four Politburo members in their 50s described as China's "sixth-generation leaders".
Mr Li Xi, like President Xi Jinping, was a "sent-down youth" during the tumultuous Cultural Revolution. Mr Li Qiang is one of four Politburo members in their 50s described as China's "sixth-generation leaders".
Mr Li Xi, like President Xi Jinping, was a "sent-down youth" during the tumultuous Cultural Revolution.

China has appointed new party bosses for the financial hub of Shanghai and the economic powerhouse of Guangdong. One used to work under President Xi Jinping, while the other is seen as a confidant.

LI QIANG: FROM XI'S SECRETARY TO POTENTIAL SUCCESSOR

He studied agricultural mechanisation and went on to complete three part-time graduate programmes: management engineering at Zhejiang University; world economics at the Central Party School; and an MBA from Hong Kong Polytechnic University.

Mr Li Qiang, 58, has emerged a potential successor to President Xi Jinping after he secured a place on the 25-seat Politburo last week.

He is among four Politburo members who are in their 50s, and who are described as China's "sixth-generation leaders".

Now that he is Shanghai's new party boss, it is clear Mr Li Qiang is being groomed for higher office.

Almost all Shanghai party bosses since the early 1990s have gone on to become members of the Politburo Standing Committee (PSC),the top decision-making body in China.

Current Shanghai party chief Han Zheng, 63, was promoted to the PSC last week and is tipped to be the first vice-premier in the State Council, or Cabinet.

President Xi, former president Jiang Zemin and former PSC member Yu Zhengsheng, all held the post before they entered the PSC.

Mr Li Qiang spent over three decades in his home province of Zhejiang before he was promoted last year to be the party chief of Jiangsu, the province with the country's second strongest-economy, after Guangdong province.

He was secretary to Mr Xi for three years when the latter was the party boss of Zhejiang.

Born in 1959 in Zhejiang's Wenzhou city - a city known for entrepreneurship and a vibrant private economy - Mr Li Qiang was appointed party boss of the city in 2002 at the age of 43, making him the youngest person to take up that position in over three decades.

Mr Zhou Dewen, the head of a business association representing small and medium-sized enterprises, was reported by the South China Morning Post as saying: "He (Mr Li) was not afraid to take risks and responsibility like some others.

"Back then, private enterprises in Wenzhou were not very keen on going public. But Mr Li encouraged them to list - he managed to change the minds of many company owners."

LI XI: FROM 'HARDSHIP PROVINCE' TO CHINA'S RICHEST PROVINCE

Mr Li Xi has a degree in Chinese language and literature from Northwest Normal University in Gansu's Lanzhou city and an MBA from the School of Economics and Management at Beijing's Tsinghua University.

He spent most of his career in impoverished Gansu, one of the so-called "hardship provinces" in China.

Although the 61-year-old is not known to have worked directly with Mr Xi, their relationship can be traced back to the mid-1980s when Mr Li Xi was secretary to Gansu party chief Li Ziqi, a close associate of Mr Xi's father, Mr Xi Zhongxun.

Mr Li Xi, like President Xi, was a "sent-down youth" during the tumultuous Cultural Revolution years.

When Mr Li Xi served as party secretary of the Shaanxi province's Yan'an municipal party committee (2006 to 2011), he played a key role in turning the location where Mr Xi had worked as a "sent-down youth" into a "model village", according to Brookings Institution.

From Shaanxi, which is Mr Xi's home province, Mr Li Xi was transferred to work in the financial hub of Shanghai in 2011, which put him on the fast track for promotion. He became the city's deputy party chief in 2013.

A year later, he moved to Liaoning to take up the job of governor and was promoted to its party chief in 2015.

The rust-belt province of Liaoning, home to large and struggling steel mills, reported gross domestic product growth of minus 2.3 per cent last year, but that did not affect Mr Li Xi's political fortunes.

He was promoted to the 25-member Politburo last week, followed by the annoncement on Saturday that he will be heading the southern province of Guangdong. He replaces Mr Hu Chunhua, 54.

Mr Li Xi, as Guangdong's party boss, will oversee the further integration of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macau Greater Bay Area, a megacity cluster which seeks to rival the San Francisco Bay Area.

A new high-speed rail link connecting Hong Kong to the mainland's network via Guangzhou will be operational next year and a HK$117 billion (S$20.5 billion) mega bridge connecting Hong Kong, Macau and Zhuhai, a city in Guangdong, is expected to open by the end of this year.

Correction note: The story has been edited to correct the spelling of Mr Han Zheng's name. We are sorry for the error.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 30, 2017, with the headline 'Xi allies at the helm in Shanghai and Guangdong'. Print Edition | Subscribe