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Briefing

Who are China's potential new leaders?

China's once-a-decade power transition in November may promote these five party members.

By Staff Writer / October 25, 2012

This combination of photos show China's potential new leaders, left to right, Xi Jinping, Li Keqiang, Wang Qishan, Wang Yang, Liu Yandong.

Charlie Neibergall/AP, Yves Herman/Reuters, Ueslei Marcelino/Reuters, Jason Lee/Reuters, Paul Hackett/Reuters

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Beijing

At its 18th Party Congress Nov. 8, China's Communist Party will choose the nine men (and they will almost certainly all be men) who will lead the nation for the next decade. Infighting is fierce and out of view, and the identities of the winners will be top secret until they walk onstage at the Great Hall of the People. Here are five names to watch for:

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Xi Jinping: 'the next leader'

Currently the vice president, vice chairman of the Central Military Commission, and head of the party school, Xi Jinping looks like a shoo-in to take over from President Hu Jintao as head of the party this autumn and as China's president early next year.

An ebullient, affable man with a reputation for living modestly, Mr. Xi made his name running two of the economic powerhouse provinces on China's prosperous east coast, suggesting he is sympathetic to more free-market reform.

The son of a former deputy premier, Xi is a "princeling" and a member of what is known as the elitist faction within the Communist Party. But the six years he spent working in the countryside during the Cultural Revolution are said to have given him a better understanding of poor people's concerns.

He has made fewer enemies on his way up than have many ambitious rivals, and so he is acceptable to more of his peers and superiors. He will only be "first among equals" on the Standing Committee of the party's Politburo, however, and is expected to spend his first few years in power consolidating his position before launching any new policy initiatives.

Li Keqiang: leader of 'the populists'

The only other expected holdover from the current Standing Committee, Li Keqiang comes from a less-privileged background than Vice President Xi Jinping. Mr. Li is identified as a leader of the "populist" faction who has evinced interest in social issues such as affordable housing and health care, as well as alternative energy and responding to climate change.

He is tipped to take over from Wen Jiabao as prime minister, a job that would put him in charge of the country's economy.

Li came to prominence as party chief in the rust belt province of Liaoning, in China's hardscrabble Northeast, having worked his way up in the Communist Youth League, the power base of current President Hu Jintao, whose protégé he is.

Li has been a highflier since he won a place at the prestigious Peking University Law School in 1977, when universities reopened after the Cultural Revolution. His friends there included a number of student activists who were later jailed or exiled for their role in the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests.

Li speaks English, unusual for a Chinese leader.

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