China's congress: Front-runners for power

China's ruling Communist Party is holding a once-in-a-decade congress, during which the next generation of leaders will be unveiled.

The most important jobs are on the politburo standing committee, since these are the people who decide all important issues about the country's future. There are nine members of the outgoing committee. But it is possible the new line-up will be reduced to seven.

The BBC website profiles the front-runners to get these vital posts.


Xi Jinping

Xi Jinping is set to become China's new Communist Party chief the country's President.

He is a so-called 'princeling', the privileged son of a former top leader, learning Chinese politics from an early age when his father was purged and he himself was sent to work in the countryside.

Mr Xi's close ties to the military and his support for state-owned industries suggest he is rather conservative.

Born in Beijing in 1953, Mr Xi studied chemical engineering at Tsinghua University before joining the Communist Party in 1974. He worked in Hebei, Fujian and Zhejiang provinces, before being named Shanghai party chief in 2007 and tasked with cleaning up a corruption scandal.

He has a reputation for straight-talking, telling officials in 2004: 'Rein in your spouses, children, relatives, friends and staff, and vow not to use power for personal gain.'

To many inside China, Mr Xi is less famous than his wife - the folk singer Peng Liyuan. The couple have a daughter who is reportedly studying at Harvard. Little is known about his personal life, beyond a liking for basketball and, according to a leaked US diplomatic cable, Hollywood war movies, possibly acquired during a brief stay in Iowa when he was a young man.

Li Keqiang

Li Keqiang's career has seen him rise from manual labourer on a rural commune to provincial party chief and now a leader-in-waiting.

He has a reputation for caring about China's less well-off, perhaps the result of a modest upbringing.

He is close to President Hu Jintao, who he worked with in the party's youth league, and he is widely expected to take over from Wen Jiabao as China's premier. But his easy-going manner and consensual style has prompted some to question whether he is dogged enough to tackle the strong vested interests which dominate much of China's economy.

Born in 1955 in Anhui Province, Mr Li reportedly rejected his father's offer of a local party career, enrolling instead at Beijing's prestigious Peking University to study law. Mr Li was chosen as deputy party secretary for Henan Province in 1998, and became China's youngest provincial governor a year later.

But his tenure in the rural and heavily-populated province was marked by a series of setbacks, including fires and the spread of HIV through contaminated blood, which could have ended his ambitions. He did a better job reviving Henan's economy, and then impressed many by his work in Liaoning, an industrial province hit hard by reforms to state-owned industry.

Wang Qishan

Wang Qishan is well known to Western leaders, a key figure in discussions about the global economy and China's economic links with the US. Henry Paulson, the former US treasury secretary, described him as 'decisive and inquisitive', and someone with a 'wicked sense of humour'.

He is often compared to his political mentor, former premier Zhu Rongji, because both men are seen as dynamic and ready to challenge the status quo. Both even share the same nickname, 'fire brigade chief', because of their crisis management. Those characteristics have led supporters to suggest Mr Wang would make a better premier than the favourite for the job, Li Keqiang.

Mr Wang is a 'princeling', the son of a top official, and he is married to Yao Minshan, daughter of former vice-premier Yao Yilin. Born in Qingdao, Shandong, he studied history at Northwest University then worked as a researcher.

He joined the party relatively late, at age 35, and worked as a banker before being made mayor of Beijing in 2004. He took over at the height of the SARS crisis and was credited for a no-nonsense approach, enforcing a quarantine and working with the World Health Organisation, rather than trying to downplay the epidemic.

Li Yuanchao

Li Yuanchao heads the communist party's organisation department, the body that assesses members' performances and decides which jobs they get.

Such a crucial role has helped former heads of the department - including Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping - go on to hold the highest office. Mr Li is seen to straddle the two main factions within the party.

He is a 'princeling' whose father was mayor of Shanghai. But he is also widely considered to be a protege of Hu Jintao, whose support base is in the party's youth league. A mathematics graduate from Fudan University, Mr Li went on to earn a master's degree in economics from Beijing University and a doctorate of law from the Central Party School.

He also attended leadership training at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. Before taking charge of the organisation department, he was party chief in his native Jiangsu province.

He was both praised and criticised for his handling of an algae bloom on Lake Tai, where pollution from hundreds of factories along its shores threatened drinking water supplies for millions of people. In Jiangsu, he tried to make officials responsive to the public, setting up a system to allow them to evaluate local leaders.

Zhang Dejiang

Zhang Dejiang was chosen by China's leaders for their toughest assignment of 2012, taking over as party chief of Chongqing after the fall of Bo Xilai. It cemented his reputation as a trouble-shooter who could be relied on to manage a crisis, and suggested he was set for the very top.

While many of China's new leaders have dealings with the West, Mr Zhang is an expert on a China's oldest ally, North Korea, and even spent two years studying economics in Pyongyang.

Mr Zhang, son of a PLA major-general, started his party career on the North Korean border, before being moved to Zhejiang and then working as party secretary in Guangdong between 2002 and 2007.

His term of office was not free from controversy. When a deadly form of pneumonia - severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) - broke out in the province in 2002, the government was slow to respond.

As party boss, Mr Zhang was heavily criticised. His tough stance towards protestors and journalists was also unpopular.He is not known to be a reformer, and opposed allowing businessmen to join the party. Mr Zhang was appointed vice-premier in 2008, with responsibilities including energy, telecommunications, and transportation.

Liu Yandong

Liu Yandong is the only woman in China's 24-strong politburo. She also has a chance, though it may be slight, to be the first woman promoted to the politburo's all-powerful standing committee.

Born in Jiangsu, she is the epitome of the well-connected 'princeling'. Her father was a vice-minister of agriculture said to have introduced former president Jiang Zemin's foster father into the communist party.

Ms Liu studied at Tsinghua University, like current President Hu Jintao, and she worked for him as his deputy in the party's youth league. She later earned a master's degree in sociology from Renmin University of China.

Her husband of more than 40 years, Yang Yuanxing, is also a 'princeling' and runs his own technology company. The couple have one daughter who is in her late 30s and believed to be working in Hong Kong.

According to a leaked US cable, Mr Yang once told diplomats that his wife speaks good English and is keen on photography, but did not have time for the hobby.

Ms Liu has a reputation for being quiet but hardworking and efficient. She has spoken of the need to bridge cultural misunderstandings, recently encouraging foreign scientists to work with Chinese experts.

Liu Yunshan

Liu Yunshan, 55, is head of the party's propaganda department, the body which strictly controls the country's media and polices the internet.

He worked in Inner Mongolia for almost three decades from 1968, after being sent there as a young man to work in a commune. He later became a Xinhua news agency reporter, public relations specialist, and finally deputy party secretary.

Born in Xinzhou, Shanxi, he joined the party in 1971 and was a graduate of the Party School. He worked with President Hu Jintao at the party youth league and is seen as a close ally. Mr Liu's son, Liu Lefei, is a prominent private equity investor.

If promoted to the standing committee, Mr Liu would almost certainly take over the propaganda portfolio. He is likely to maintain China's heavy-handed media censorship and intolerance of criticism, a system which sees thousands of people police internet content.

Mr Liu has expressed concern over the growing numbers of Chinese using online forums to criticise the government.

'It is impossible to control (the spread of information on the internet),' he said recently. 'I think internet users should exchange information freely, but they should follow certain rules.'

Yu Zhengsheng

Yu Zhengsheng is party chief of Shanghai, China's largest city. A 'princeling' with close ties to both former president Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao, he also has links to the late Deng Xiaoping's family.

Unusually, his political career survived his brother's defection to the US in the mid-1980s, possibly thanks to the backing of Deng's disabled son. Mr Yu's father was briefly married to Jiang Qing, who later became notorious as Madam Mao.

Mr Yu graduated from the Military Engineering Institute in Harbin, specialising in ballistic missiles, and worked in electronic engineering for almost two decades until the mid-1980s. He later worked as vice-mayor, mayor and party chief of the eastern city of Qingdao and was credited with helping launch two of China's best-known brands overseas - Tsingtao beer and Haier appliances.

Mr Yu prefers to travel in a simple car without a motorcade, and surrounds himself with few officials and bodyguards, it was revealed in leaked diplomatic cables from 2007. Mr Yu has talked about tensions between urban development and the environment.

'How China should live is a tough issue. China has achieved great economic success, albeit with many resulting problems, such as the widening income gap and the more strained human relationships,' he said.

Wang Yang

Wang Yang is seen as the flag bearer for a new generation of reformers.

Mr Wang first gained his liberal reputation as party chief in Chongqing.

More recently he won praise for his handling of a land dispute in Wukan, a village in Guangdong province, where he has been party chief since 2007. With the world's attention on Wukan, Mr Wang sent a group of senior officials to negotiate. A truce was brokered, and elections held to replace the local officials.

Born in Suzhou, Mr Wang is the son of a labourer. He worked in a food processing factory in the 1970s, before studying political economics at the Central Party School. He joined the party's youth league while President Hu was in charge, and eventually earned a degree in political administration.

In Guangdong, Mr Wang is known among local leaders for meeting regularly with local businessmen and entrepreneurs, for a more enlightened attitude towards redevelopment, and for promoting the idea of happiness as a measure of progress, rather than GDP growth.

Zhang Gaoli

Zhang Gaoli is party chief of Tianjin, a large and wealthy city east of Beijing.

Born in Fujian, he graduated from Xiamen University after studying statistics and economics. He spent the early part of his career working in the oil industry, before becoming an official in the southern province of Guangdong in the mid-1980s.

His career took off from 1998 as party boss of the southern boomtown of Shenzhen, across the border from Hong Kong.

While overseeing the city's development, he also established close ties with former President Jiang Zemin and his supporters, a relationship which helped ensure Mr Zhang's promotion to governor of the province of Shandong in 2002.

Mr Zhang has been a low-profile leader in Tianjin, and little is known about his views or personal life.

Meng Jianzhu

Meng Jianzhu is currently Minister of Public Security - an important position that oversees domestic law enforcement.

Some see him as a candidate to take over as the country's overall internal security chief.But Mr Meng owes his position to former President Jiang Zemin and his 'Shanghai gang', and it is not clear whether he has enough support in the current leadership to win promotion.

Mr Meng was born in Suzhou, Jiangsu and joined the Communist Party in 1971. He studied industrial systems engineering at Shanghai's Mechanical Engineering Institute.

He was one of Shanghai's deputy mayors from 1993, then the city's deputy party chief until 2001, and then party chief in Jiangxi province until 2007. In his current role, overseeing the country's police, Mr Meng is often quoted on national security issues.

He reportedly told county-level police officers at a training session to be 'rational, easy-going, civilized and proper' in carrying out their duties. But he also told them to recognise the 'heavy and difficult task of maintaining stability'.

Hu Chunhua

Hu Chunhua, party chief of Inner Mongolia, is one of China's youngest senior leaders and widely seen as a rising star.

He is known as 'Little Hu' because of his close ties to President Hu Jintao, even though the two are not related. If he were to win a seat on the standing committee, Mr Hu would be its youngest member at 49. It would also mark him out as the strongest candidate to succeed Xi Jinping as China's overall leader in 2022.

Mr Hu comes from a humble background, born into a Hubei farming family. But after excelling in exams he earned a place at Peking University. His political career started in Tibet in the party youth league - President Hu's power base.

The young Mr Hu ended up working for 23 years in Tibet, where Chinese rule often sparks ethnic tension.

Mr Hu moved to Inner Mongolia in 2009, and won praise for his handling of protests by ethnic Mongols unhappy about coal mining destroying grazing pastures.

'In the development process, it is necessary that safeguarding the interests of the masses must be the fundamental starting point,' he said. 'If people's interests are not protected properly, then development cannot be sustainable.'