China Could Get a Fifth Vice Premier

New Politburo member Yang Jiechi may become a State Council vice premier with a foreign affairs portfolio, according to latest intelligence from China. 

The backdrop: Yang spent most of his career in China’s foreign ministry, and served as China’s Ambassador to the United States from 2001 to 2005. From 2013 until his promotion to the Politburo at the 19th Party Congress, he served as a State Councilor and director of Foreign Affairs Leading Group Office.

Our take:

1. China could get a fifth vice premier

  • There are currently four vice premier overseeing different portfolios.
  • We earlier anticipated Yang Jiechi taking over Politburo Standing Committee member Wang Yang’s vice premier duties as the third-rank vice premier. (See our forecast: “These Six Officials Will Shape the Future of China’s Economy”)
  • If Yang Jiechi becomes a vice premier with an exclusive diplomatic portfolio, this leaves the third vice premier slot empty. We believe that former Guangdong Party secretary Hu Chunhua may be appointed to this position at the Two Sessions meeting next March.

2. Yang’s possible future role fits the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) new diplomatic strategy

  • The CCP’s 19th Congress report called for China to “comprehensively promote big power diplomacy.” We wrote earlier that this means the expansion and prioritization of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). (See: “China Plans to Surpass the US in 2050”)
  • Yang’s extensive diplomatic experience makes him the ideal candidate to spearhead the BRI promotion effort.
  • The assigning of a vice premier, a leading national leadership position, to handle international relations indicates that the CCP is elevating the role of diplomacy in its affairs.