China’s new leadership lineup will be unveiled as thousands of delegates descend on Beijing for the country’s annual parliamentary sessions that will begin in a few days.
Given that Chinese President Xi Jinping has not anointed a potential successor, analysts will be keeping a close watch for clues on how he intends to rule China for years to come.
This comes just after China’s Communist Party unveiled its top leaders at its 19th congress in October, in a leadership change that happens only twice in 10 years.
HOW WILL THIS AFFECT CHINA’S TOP GOVERNMENT POSITIONS?
A list of proposed candidates was approved by the Communist Party’s Central Committee at their third plenum, which concluded on Wednesday (Feb 28).
While no names were mentioned, a few things are certain – Communist Party leader Xi Jinping will embark on his second term as president, while Li Keqiang will retain his post as the country’s premier.
In the lead-up to the annual meetings, the Communist Party of China shocked the world when it proposed to scrap the presidential term limit. The proposal, if approved, could technically allow Mr Xi to rule for life.
“If you look at the first term, he didn’t really have so much power and he wasn’t able to choose some of the people who were in the government,” said Professor Gao.
“This congress will give him the power to pick the people that he wants to serve in the key positions in government and to carry out the way he wants China to develop.”
Mr Xi’s close ally Li Zhanshu, director of the Communist Party’s General Office, looks set to become chairman of the National People’s Congress, China’s rubber-stamp parliament.
Current Vice-Premier Wang Yang on the other hand, is expected to head the country’s top political advisory body – the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference.
The vice-premier and cabinet minister positions are also being closely watched, with former Shanghai party chief Han Zheng widely tipped to become executive vice-premier.
Much of the attention this time was also focused on former anti-corruption tsar – Wang Qishan, who is seen as Mr Xi’s right-hand man.
The 69-year-old stepped down from the Communist Party’s most powerful body, the Politburo Standing Committee last year when he reached retirement age.
However, in January, he was named a congressional delegate, sparking speculation he may be in the running for vice president.
“It’s possible that Wang will take charge of China’s foreign policy for example, because we know Wang has a lot of experiences dealing with Americans,” said Dr Cheng Gang, assistant director of policy research at the East Asian Institute in the National University of Singapore.
“He has participated in a lot of talks and negotiations with Americans on trade and finance issues.
“Also, I think if Wang has been selected as a vice president, that also gives a signal that Xi Jinping is quite satisfied with Wang’s anti-corruption campaign in the last five years,” he added.
BEIJING’S AMBITIONS ON THE GLOBAL STAGE
The new lineup will also likely signal a shift in Beijing’s view of international relations.
As it stands, two major foreign policy figures – China’s top diplomat Yang Jiechi and current foreign minister Wang Yi – are now in top-level positions, and changes are unlikely.
Experts say their standing in China’s top echelons reflects Beijing’s ambitions on the global stage.
“It will create a situation in which for a few decades it’s the first time you’ll have a very strong foreign policy team,” said associate professor Li Minjiang, China programme coordinator at the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies.
“Many people believe this is Xi Jinping’s idea that now foreign policy and foreign affairs is becoming more and more important. You need more capable, more visionary leaders to steer China’s foreign policy relations. That it’s now time for China to become a global power and to play a global power role and to restore China’s national rejuvenation,” he said.
Last October, Mr Xi promised a new era for China as a leading global power with a world-class military.
Observers say it is worth watching how he now seeks to realise his vision of national rejuvenation.