In the wait for China’s closely approaching 20th National Congress, two names stand up regarding speculation about who will replace Premier Li Keqiang.

China’s second highest political position is being left vacant after 67-year-old Li in March announced his retirement. Reuters reports that two candidates, Wang Yang and Hu Chunhua are in the running to replace Li.

Both men are closely associated with Xi’s predecessor Hu Jintao . While Wang is only part of the Communist Youth League, a faction considered against Xi Jinping , Hu is seen as having close ties to the organization.

But both men have demonstrated strong allegiance to the current Chinese leader, reiterating his agenda and promoting Beijing’s rhetorics on sensitive matters.

Wang Yang is chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference and is fourth in the Politburo Standing Committee, the Chinese Communist Party’s top decision-making body. He has kept a particularly low profile since joining the Standing Committee five years ago. As a result, Xi may have granted him some trust.

In contrast, 59-year-old Hu was the youngest of four vice premiers in 2018. And whether as party boss of Guangdong or as vice premier, experts believe he has built up a good reputation. Hu has been in charge of areas related to agriculture, trade, commerce, and poverty reduction. 

His position in agriculture might give Hu points, as Xi has been emphasizing food security since COVID.

Yu Jie, a senior research fellow on China at Chatham House, says, “Agriculture is not glamorous, but it’s hugely important for the Communist Party and domestic politics. Whoever is landed with this has to be a trusted person.”

On the other hand, the men’s chance to win the premiership may also be determined by their age.

According to Reuters, being aged 67 may give Wang an edge. It means he could only hold the post for one term and will not have enough time to build up any potential tendency to outlast or upend Xi.

59-year-old Hu, in contrast, is a decade younger than Xi. He, therefore, is someone with a long political runway.

As CNBC reports from Brookings Senior Fellow Cheng Li, if Hu is promoted, it would mean “leadership unity” as Xi is selecting a person who is not from his faction.

But if Wang becomes the next premier, it would reflect drastic policy change because he is known to be market-oriented.

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