China’s New Leadership: 2017–2022 Leaders, Grand Strategy and Policies

By Dan Steinbock

After the 19th Congress, Xi’s China is preparing for a new roadmap domestically and internationally. This is Dr. Dan Steinbock’s in-depth analysis of China’s critical changes that will shape the world economy until 2022 – and beyond.


As the 19th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party (CPC) opened in Beijing, General Secretary Xi Jinping delivered a report about “building a moderately prosperous society” for a new era. In his speech, Xi offered a blueprint for China’s development for the next 5-15 years.

Afterwards, the Congress unveiled the new leadership team who will be ultimately accountable for Beijing’s evolving grand strategy and its execution that will shape China and the world in the next five years.


Leadership Transition: From 5th Generation to 6th Generation

China’s first leadership – from 1949 to mid-70s – featured Mao Zedong, his foreign affairs expert Zhou Enlai and half a dozen other core leaders. These were mainly Communist revolutionaries born around 1886 and 1907; that is, during an era of imperial disintegration, colonial divisions, and the nascent efforts at Chinese republic.

The current Xi-Li Administration came to power at the 18th Party Congress in 2012. Most of these leaders were born around 1945-55 and educated at elite Chinese universities. They comprised fewer engineers but more managers and finance majors, including business executives. They grew up during the years of Cultural Revolution, but built their lives amid economic reforms and opening-up. They were more professional, share a more international outlook and remain determined to shape a new China for the 21st century.

Five years ago, Western media far too often portrayed the Xi-Li team as hard-core conservatives who would reject economic reforms. In contrast, I argued on CNBC in New York City that this was a gross misperception that reflected poor understanding of China’s actual past and potential future. “China,” I argued, “is moving toward liberal reforms, but such changes require tough hands.”

In 2012, China did not opt for leaders who had a reputation for rhetorical eloquence but poor performance. Instead, China’s new leadership featured tough doers who were known for getting things done. Such leaders are necessary to transcend entrenched interests and to move China toward the post-industrial society. That’s what the Xi-Li team initiated in the past half a decade and it is likely to complete by 2022. That is when the 6th generation will take over- Chinese leaders born in the 1960s and thus with no personal experience of the Cultural Revolution.

Half a decade ago, I argued on CNBC that the 2017 leadership would also consist of tough hands but ones that would be determined to achieve a more open and transparent China, with liberal market doctrines but socialist long-term objectives. And that’s precisely what hundreds of millions of Chinese TV viewers saw as Xi introduced the other six Standing Committee members at a press conference, which was broadcast live.

After three decades of dramatic industrialisation, Xi’s first team began the transition to post-industrial society in 2012, which his second team is likely to complete.

The address ensued after Xi’s name had been added to the Party constitution, which puts him on a part with late paramount leaders Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping. Indeed, each of these leaders exemplifies critical phases in China’s postwar history. It was Mao who made possible a sovereign China and peace that allowed the first efforts at industrial take-off. But China’s industrial revolution did not materialise until Deng took over in the 1980s. After three decades of dramatic industrialisation, Xi’s first team began the transition to post-industrial society in 2012, which his second team is likely to complete.

The full line-up of the new Politburo and its ultimate leadership Standing Committee includes Party General Secretary Xi Jinping (born in 1953), who accounts for China’s grand strategy, and Premier Li Keqiang (1955), an economist who did his PhD on the restructuring of Chinese big businesses and is exceptionally-well equipped to execute the impending reforms.

Who are the new Chinese leaders?

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About the Author

Dr. Dan Steinbock is Guest Fellow of Shanghai Institutes for International Studies (SIIS), see The commentary is part of his SIIS project “China in the Era of Economic Uncertainty and Geopolitical Risk”. For his global advisory activities and other affiliations in the US and Europe, see

The views expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of All China Review.