China's top leadership will likely undergo a major reshuffle, with allies of President Xi Jinping installed on the ruling Communist Party's Politburo Standing Committee following the ongoing twice-a-decade party congress, several sources familiar with the matter said Tuesday.
Xi, 69, who is set to secure an unprecedented third five-year term as general secretary at the weeklong congress through Saturday, recently called for a significant change in the composition of the standing committee, the country's highest decision-making body that now has seven members, the sources said.
Based on the party's unwritten but de facto retirement age of 68, applied to committee members other than Xi, two of the remaining six members have been expected to step down -- top legislator Li Zhanshu, 72, and Vice Premier Han Zheng, 68.
Following Xi's recent shakeup order, a plan to replace Wang Huning, 67, the country's top ideological theorist, and possibly another member in addition to Li and Han has been examined, according to the sources.
The new composition of the standing committee is expected to be unveiled Sunday after the conclusion of the congress, which is the nation's most important political event attended by around 2,300 delegates.
Potential new standing committee members include Xi loyalists Ding Xuexiang, 60, who heads the general office of the party's Central Committee, Chen Min'er, 62, party secretary of the southwestern city of Chongqing, Li Qiang, 63, Communist Party chief of Shanghai, and Li Xi, 66, party secretary of Guangdong Province, the sources said.
Vice Premier Hu Chunhua, 59, who is believed to have fewer ties to Xi, is also one of the potential new members, they added.
Hong Kong's South China Morning Post said Tuesday as many as four top positions on the standing committee could change hands and that Premier Li Keqiang, 67, who is set to retire next spring, could also resign as a committee member.
The Wall Street Journal said Monday that Li Qiang is considered a leading contender to be named premier next spring despite being criticized earlier this year for overseeing a two-month coronavirus-precipitated lockdown of Shanghai during which residents struggled to access food and medical care.