By Brenda Goh
SHANGHAI, Oct 23 (Reuters) – Chinese President Xi Jinping named his cabinet chief, Ding Xuexiang, one of China’s most powerful men on Sunday, in a move that party observers say underlines the importance Xi attaches to trust and loyalty.
Ding, 60, has no experience in governing an economy at the provincial level, but may still be on track to become ranked vice-premier, whose job would include helping a new premier run the world’s second largest economy. .
Prior to his rise to the Politburo Standing Committee on Sunday, the two highlights of Ding’s political career were when Xi cast him as his private secretary and guardian, first in 2007 when both men worked in Shanghai, then from 2013 onwards. after Xi became President.
“What really stands out about Ding Xuexiang is that he has probably spent more time with Xi Jinping than any other official in the past five years,” said Neil Thomas, senior analyst for China and Northeast Asia at Eurasia Group.
“Ding is actually Xi’s chief of staff and is almost always by his side. It is clear that Xi trusted Ding’s loyalty and skills,” he said.
Born in the eastern province of Jiangsu, Ding studied mechanical engineering and began his career at the Shanghai Research Institute of Materials, where he went from researcher to director and deputy party secretary for 17 years.
He later held roles on the Shanghai party committee, where his political star grew after becoming Xi’s first aide when the future leader moved to China’s commercial capital in 2007 and spent eight months as the party secretary.
Other Xi acolytes from his time in Shanghai who were later promoted included Vice Premier Han Zheng and Xu Lin, who heads the National Radio and Television Administration.
In 2013, after Xi became president, Ding moved to Beijing as Xi’s personal secretary and deputy director of the party’s powerful 200-member Central Committee General Office, which manages the administrative affairs of the top leadership.
He eventually succeeded the then head of the General Bureau, Li Zhanshu, who is currently China’s top lawmaker and is expected to retire from the Standing Committee at 72.
Although little has been written about Ding’s time in Shanghai, an article he wrote in 2008 for a magazine published by the General Office clarified the importance he places on administrative work, which he described as crucial to success or success. bankruptcy of a country.
“Ding’s experience suggests that he is a talented administrator with political experience and an appreciation for technocratic skills. It is possible that Ding influenced Xi to promote more technocrats to leadership positions at ministerial and vice ministerial levels,” said Thomas.
Given the opacity of Chinese politics and Ding’s role as a background player, even less is known about him than the other members of the new Standing Committee.
“Ding is a political aide working behind the scenes, so there isn’t much public information about his personal impact, contributing to the wall of secrecy surrounding Xi’s top advisors,” said Thomas.
In speeches this year, Ding repeatedly urged party cadres to demonstrate loyalty and unity, as well as to correct problems to ensure the smooth running of the Party Congress. (Reported by Brenda Goh; Additional reporting by Lincoln FEast’s Shanghai Newsroom)