The CrowdStrike Intelligence Team is excited to showcase some of the non-technical analysis that we conduct every day. This analysis provides our customers with up-to-date information on strategic issues that might impact the adversaries that target their critical systems. Ten days ago, when all eyes were on the U.S. Presidential election, CrowdStrike Intelligence Analysts were consumed with another electoral process.
On November 15, 2012, the 18th National People’s Congress (NPC) completed its 10-day long conclave, which traditionally meets every 5 years in Beijing to usher in the next top leader of China. The next president of China, who is also the General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and Chairman of the Central Military Commission, is Xi Jinping (习近平).
Before diving deep into a biographical analysis of the new President to dissect his personality and political views, it’s imperative to first understand how China operates as a political entity to understand the big picture of China’s politics.
Despite the fact that China is a one-party state controlled by the CCP, the CCP is not homogenous in its politics. The saying in China is, “one party, two coalitions.” The CCP is comprised of two distinct factions: the populists and the princelings.
The populist faction reflects strong allegiance to the CCP and additionally represents the disadvantaged social groups in China (e.g., farmers, migrant workers, urban poor). Some of the top leaders of the populist faction got their start in the Chinese Communist Youth League and became labeled tuanpai, which means “league faction.”
Former President Hu Jintao continues to lead the populist faction alongside of former Premier Wen Jiabao. Conversely, a princeling is a child of China’s first generation of revolution heroes and leaders. The princelings primarily start their careers in China’s economically advanced coastal cities.
As a result of their privileged aristocratic lifestyles, the princelings typically promote economic reform and represent entrepreneurs’ interests. Former President Jiang Zemin formed this elitist faction with the help of the following two leaders: Wu Bangguo, former chairman of the national legislature, and Jia Qinglin, former head of a national political advisory body.
The Politburo Standing Committee is the sole decision-making body of the CCP, housing the top 7 to 9 leaders of China. In the eyes of the CCP, the president is seen as an equal amongst the Standing Committee members.
China’s current political system is a collective leadership as reflected in the Standing Committee, preventing one leader from usurping too much power as historically reflected during the Mao Zedong era. The president must build consensus amongst the Standing Committee members in order to set policy agendas and reach policy solutions.
How are the president and Standing Committee members selected? Backroom negotiations. A select group of elite party elders and outgoing party leaders handpick the president, as well as the 7 to 9 Standing Committee members who will then be appointed to serve on the upcoming 5-year term.
Each Standing Committee member is appointed based on his close patron relationship to a current or past leader. It’s an unspoken rule that each appointed Standing Committee member pays tribute to his patron by promoting the patron’s political ideology and policy stance. These patrons are primarily made up of the aforementioned party “elders,” Mr. Jiang, Mr. Wu, Mr. Jia, Mr. Wen, and Mr. Hu, all of whom battle to maintain political power within the CCP.
During Hu Jintao’s leadership, the Standing Committee was split 5-4, with 4 seats representing the populist coalition and the remaining 5 reflecting the elitist faction. With the completion of the 10-day conclave of the new 18th NPC, China announced the shift from 9 to 7 seats, which suggests reining in power and eliminating threatening actors, including Liu Yuanchao and Wang Yang, who were proponents of political reform and change.
The Standing Committee
The newest lineup of the 7 Standing Committee members only includes two members who are tuanpai, although one of them is a close comrade of Jiang Zemin, which creates a 6-1 princeling to tuanpai split.
Below are the the 7 Standing Committee members who will lead China for the next five years:
Xi Jinping (President, General Secretary, Chairman) 习近平
Li Keqiang (Premier of the NPC)李克强
Populist: Li was a member of the Communist Youth League and is considered part of President Hu Jintao’s tuanpai faction.
Zhang Dejiang, 张德江, Princeling
Liu Yunshan, 刘云山, Tuanpai
Zhang Gaoli, 张高丽, Tuanpai (however, Jiang Zemin’s protégé)
Cyber Espionage and the State
It’s imperative for the U.S. to engage China’s new leadership on cyber espionage. It will not only take the U.S. government to fight against China’s cyber espionage at the national policy level, but it’s also imperative for the private sector to lead the fight against foreign cyber adversaries.
To that end, one of the most effective ways to arm your organization is to leverage intelligence in a cyber defense strategy. At CrowdStrike, intelligence powers everything we do. For information on how you can leverage the CrowdStrike Intelligence Team to power your business decisions and enterprise defense, please contact us at intelligence@CrowdStrike.com.
CrowdStrike would like to acknowledge the incredible work by the Project 2049 Institute and we encourage you to read their reporting if you are interested in the Chinese strategic agenda.