Editor's note: This is the tenth in a series of articles on Zhongnanhai, the seclusive political enclave in central Beijing, and the power struggles that have transpired within the Communist Party there. The series will appear on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
HARBIN, China—After buyers from various nations had left one of the largest international trade fairs in northeastern China, a young politician showed up and received celebrity treatment.
“He is the youngest governor in the nation,” said a 23-year-old female college student at the trade fair held in an exhibition center in Harbin, Heilongjiang province. “I was so happy to be able to see him up close.”
Another woman in her 20s who took a photo with her mobile phone said, “I am more interested in him than the Communist Party committee secretary.”
The secretary is the highest ranking official in Heilongjiang province, but the woman did not seem to care.
The person generating all the attention on the evening of June 15 was Lu Hao, the 46-year-old governor of Heilongjiang province. He spent close to two hours at the trade fair along with about 40 subordinates.
Lu is a rising star in the Chinese Communist Party. The People’s Daily described him as a “political thoroughbred.”
In his second year at Peking University, Lu won a heated competition to become president of the student association.
He also served as first secretary of the Communist Youth League, a post once held by Hu Jintao, the former general secretary, as well as Premier Li Keqiang.
Lu took over as Heilongjiang provincial governor in March—the first time he has worked in a local government.
“Local officials are whispering that the central committee selected the post because the province has few major problems that could possibly sully his record,” a diplomatic source said.
Other analysts said the posting was also a way for Communist Party leaders in Zhongnanhai to test Lu’s abilities by placing him in a province with a medium-sized economy.
Procedurally, the provincial people’s assembly picks the provincial governor. But it is actually the Communist Party’s Central Committee Organization Department that makes the selection.
“The provincial Communist Party committee secretary and governor are designated by the Politburo Standing Committee,” said a university professor with many former students working in the Organization Department.
The seven members of that Standing Committee constitute the highest decision-making body in China.
Lu’s predecessor as first secretary of the Communist Youth League was Hu Chunhua, 50, the secretary of the Guangdong provincial Communist Party committee, who is considered one of the leading candidates to succeed Xi as general secretary.
Hu was promoted to the Politburo last year after serving in a post in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region.
Lu will likely seek inclusion into Zhongnanhai after he takes a second local government post.
The major function of the Organization Department is to select promising young party officials and have them step up the career ladder to develop into future candidates as national leaders.
On June 20, Xi invited Lu’s successors as leaders of the Communist Youth League to his office in Zhongnanhai. Xi’s office is located in Qinzhengdian (hall of industrious government).
Of the six new leaders, three were born in the 1970s.
On the wall behind Xi was a painting of Mount Taishan in Shandong province. The painting was selected as a symbol of hope that the administration would remain stable for many centuries and generations in the same way as the mountain has stood.
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