Hu Qili: A strong advocate of reform, Mr. Hu has been particularly active in directing the Communist Party's ideological and propaganda affairs. After graduating from Peking University in the early 1950s, Hu took a post in the Communist Youth League. Purged during the 1966-1976 Cultural Revolution, Hu was rehabilitated in the late 1970s and later became mayor of the coastal city of Tianjin. In 1982, he was elevated to the influential Secretariat. Hu, 58, joined the party's Politburo, which formulates major policies, in 1985.
Li Peng: A specialist in hydroelectric power, Mr. Li, 59, has spent most of his career as an engineer and bureaucrat. He studied in Moscow, returning in 1954 to work for 30 years under the Ministry of Water Resources and Electric Power.
In 1985, Li won seats on both the Politburo and Secretariat. He has major responsibility in the fields of science, technology, energy, and education.
Some analysts believe Li's background makes him a central planning advocate; others disagree. One source says Li's Soviet experience makes him more aware of the pitfalls of a state-run economy.
Qiao Shi: Mr. Qiao, 63, is a little-known organization man with long experience in party affairs - especially relating to state security and party discipline.
Between 1949 and 1964, Qiao held several important posts including one in the Communist Youth League. Purged during the Cultural Revolution, Qiao reemerged in the 1970s to work in the party's International Liason Department, becoming its head in 1982.
In 1984, he was appointed director of the party's powerful Organization Department, which handles personnel matters. A year later, he won seats on the Politburo and Secretariat.
Yao Yilin: The senior of China's four vice-premiers, Mr. Yao, 70, - despite reservations about the pace of reform - is close to Deng. He has worked extensively in finance and foreign trade.
In the 1950s, Yao served as vice-minister of trade. He speaks English, having attended a Christian school. Yao once regarded himself a Christian, and was purged during the Cultural Revolution.
Yao was reappointed as an alternate Central Committee member in 1973 and reelected as a full member in 1977.
Zhao Ziyang: The party General Secretary has built a reputation as the sort of pragmatic technocrat most suited to implement Deng's economic reforms. Mr. Zhao pioneered rural reforms that eliminated grain shortages after the Cultural Revolution.
Zhao, 68, joined the party in 1938, and has been a member of the Central Committee since 1973. He was appointed party acting general secretary in January.