By Yining Su
Xi Jinping has picked Li Yuanchao as his vice-president, snubbing Liu Yunshan, who was believed to be favoured by Jiang Zemin.
On March 12, Reuters reported that Li would be the Veep instead of Liu, who also serves as propaganda chief, citing unnamed sources.
According to Reuters’s source, appointing Li “was Xi’s decision and a sign he is strong and able to say ‘no’ to Jiang”.
Li is seen as more of a reformist than Liu. According to the WSJ, “Party insiders and analysts view Mr. Li as among the more overhaul-minded of China’s top leadership”.
Yet the vice-president is a largely symbolic position, without much real power. In the past, the position of vice-president has been used to groom leaders for the role of president, but in this case, Li is considered too old to succeed Xi. Both Hu Jintao and Xi were vice-president before assuming the role of president.
Li was widely tipped to be named to the Politburo Standing Committee last November, but was apparently blocked by Jiang.
It may be that Xi is sincere about implementing reform, and appointing Li is a sign of that. Or, it could be that by appointing Li, Xi is simply attempting to delicately balance the factions in power. Li is close to Hu, while most of the other top leaders all closely aligned to Jiang.