Wen Jiabao (born 15 September 1942) was the sixth Premier of the State
Council of the People's Republic of China, serving as China's head of
government for a decade between 2003 and 2013. In his capacity as
Premier, Wen was regarded as the leading figure behind Beijing's
economic policy. From 2002 to 2012, he held membership in the
Politburo Standing Committee
Politburo Standing Committee of the Communist Party of China, the
country's de facto top power organ, where he was ranked third out of
He worked as the chief of the Party General Office between 1986 and
1993, and accompanied Party general secretary
Zhao Ziyang to Tiananmen
Square during the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests. In 1998, he was
promoted to the post of Vice Premier under Premier Zhu Rongji, his
mentor, and oversaw the broad portfolios of agriculture and finance.
Wen was dubbed "the people's premier" by both domestic and foreign
media. Instead of concentrating on GDP growth in large cities and
rich coastal areas, Wen advocated for advancing policies considered
more favourable towards farmers and migrant workers. Wen's government
reduced agricultural taxes and pursued ambitious infrastructure
projects. Following the global financial crisis of 2008, Wen's
government injected four trillion yuan as part of a stimulus program.
Seen as the leading member of the reform wing of the Communist Party,
Wen's family came under scrutiny by investigative journalists for
having accumulated a massive fortune during his time in government,
casting a cloud over his legacy shortly prior to his
retirement. He left office in 2013 and was succeeded by Li
1 Early life and rise to power
1.1 Survival of Tiananmen purge
2 First-term Premiership
3 Second-term Premiership
3.1 Response to 2008 Sichuan earthquake
3.2 2009 NPC
3.3 Foreign policy
4 Political views
5 Public image and political influence
6 Personal life and family wealth
7 See also
9 External links
Early life and rise to power
A native of Beichen District, Tianjin,
Wen Jiabao went to the Nankai
High School from which his predecessor premier
Zhou Enlai graduated.
He joined the
Communist Party of China
Communist Party of China (CPC) in April 1965 and
entered the work force in September 1967.
Wen has a background in engineering and holds a post-graduate degree
from the Beijing Institute of Geology. He studied geomechanics in
Beijing and began his career in the geology bureau of
From 1968–1978, he presided over the
Geomechanics Survey Team under
Gansu Provincial Geological Bureau and head of its political
section. Wen succeeded in office, rising as chief of the Gansu
Provincial Geological Bureau and later as Vice-minister of Geology and
Wen was "discovered" by then-general secretary Hu Yaobang, and joined
the ranks of the Central Committee and Politburo. There was some
public speculation after 1989 over whether Wen was closer to Hu
Yaobang or Zhao Ziyang, but Wen implicitly confirmed that he was a
protégé of Hu by the release of his 2010 article, "Recalling Hu
Yaobang when I return to Xingyi". After Wen was promoted to work in
Beijing, he served as Chief of the Party's General Affairs Office, an
organ that oversaw day-to-day operations of the party's leaders. He
remained in the post for eight years.
Wen has built a network of patronage during his career. Throughout
this period Wen was said to be a strong administrator and technocrat,
having earned a reputation for meticulousness, competence, and a focus
on tangible results. Outgoing Premier
Zhu Rongji showed his esteem for
Wen by entrusting him from 1998 with the task of overseeing
agricultural, financial and environmental policies in the office of
Vice-Premier, considered crucial as China prepared to enter the World
Trade Organization. Wen served as Secretary of the Central Financial
Work Commission from 1998 to 2002. By the end of the 1990s Wen and
Zhang Peili were the main investor and founder of Ping An Insurance,
which was established with the help of Hong Kong tycoon Cheng
Yu-tung's family through real estate firm New World Development.
Survival of Tiananmen purge
Wen's most significant political recovery occurred after accompanying
Zhao on his visit to students demonstrating in Tiananmen Square in
1989. Unlike Zhao, who was purged from the party days later for "grave
insubordination" and lived under house arrest in Beijing until his
death in January 2005, Wen survived the political aftermath of the
Wen Jiabao is the only Chief of the Party's General
Affairs Office to have served under three General Secretaries: Hu
Yaobang, Zhao Ziyang, and Jiang Zemin.
Wen entered the Politburo Standing Committee, China's highest ruling
council, in November 2002, ranked third out of nine members. During
the transition of authority as
Hu Jintao assumed the presidency in
March 2003, Wen's nomination as premier was confirmed by the National
People's Congress with over 99% of the delegates' vote. After taking
over as Premier, Wen oversaw the continuation of economic reforms and
has been involved in shifting national goals from economic growth at
all costs to growth which also emphasizes more egalitarian wealth,
along with other social goals, such as public health and education.
Wen's broad range of experience and expertise, especially cultivated
while presiding over agricultural policies under
Zhu Rongji has been
important as the "fourth generation" sought to revitalize the rural
economy in regions left out by the past two decades of reform. In
addition, the Chinese government under Wen has begun to focus on the
social costs of economic development, which include damage to the
environment and to workers' health. This more comprehensive definition
of development was encapsulated into the idea of a xiaokang society.
Initially regarded as quiet and unassuming, Wen is said to be a good
communicator and is known as a "man of the people." Wen has appeared
to make great efforts to reach out those who seem left out by two
decades of stunning economic growth in rural and especially western
Jiang Zemin and his protégés on the Politburo Standing
Committee, who form the so-called "Shanghai clique", both Wen and Hu
hail from, and have cultivated their political bases, in the vast
Chinese interior. Many have noted the contrasts between Wen and Hu,
"men of the people", and Jiang Zemin, the flamboyant, multilingual,
and urbane former mayor of Shanghai, the country's most cosmopolitan
Like Hu Jintao, whose purported brilliance and photographic memory
have facilitated his meteoric rise to power, Wen is regarded as
well-equipped to preside over a vast bureaucracy in the world's most
populated and perhaps rapidly changing nation. In March 2003, the
usually self-effacing Wen was quoted as saying, "The former Swiss
ambassador to China once said that my brain is like a computer", he
said. "Indeed, many statistics are stored in my brain."
Mild-tempered and conciliatory, especially compared to his
predecessor, the tough, straight-talking Zhu Rongji, Wen's consensual
management style has enabled him to generate a great deal of good
will, but has also created some opponents who are in support of
tougher policy decisions. Notably, Wen was widely known to have
clashed with then-Shanghai party chief
Chen Liangyu over the central
Wen was involved in two major episodes involving public health. In
early 2003, he was involved in ending the official inaction over the
SARS crisis. On 1 December 2004, he became the first major Chinese
official to publicly address the problem of AIDS, which has devastated
Henan and threatens to be a major burden on
Chinese development. Since May 2004, Wen made various visits to
communities devastated by AIDS, trips shown prominently on national
media. By showing these actions, Wen displayed an effort to reverse
years of what many activists have described as a policy of denial and
inaction. Furthermore, Wen is concerned about the health and safety of
previous drug addicts; since March 2004, Wen had visited several drug
addict treatment facilities in southern China and addressed the issue
to the patients in person, recognizing that AIDS is more likely to be
spread by drug abuse and the reuse of hypodermic syringes than by
Wen was known to conduct visits to relatively poor areas of China's
countryside randomly to avoid elaborate preparations to appease
officials and hide the real situation, which is done often in China.
At committee meetings of the State Council, Wen made it clear that the
rural wealth disparity problem must be addressed. Along with general
secretary Hu Jintao, the government focused on the "Three Rural
Issues", namely, agriculture, the countryside, and farmers, and
emphasized these core areas as requiring further work and development.
The Hu-Wen administration abolished the thousand year old agricultural
tax entirely in 2005, a bold move that significantly changed the rural
economic model. But despite these initiatives, Wen has been criticized
for allowing the urban-rural gap to actually increase during his
Like Zhu Rongji, Wen is generally seen as a popular communist official
with the Chinese public. His attitude is seemingly sincere and warm,
triggering comparisons with former premier Zhou Enlai. Wen spent
Chinese New Year
Chinese New Year in 2005 with a group of coal miners in a
mine. To many, Wen has gained the image of being the "people's
premier", a populist, and an ordinary Chinese citizen who knows and
understands ordinary people's needs. In an annual meeting of the
Chinese Authors Association, Wen spoke for over two hours to the
delegates without looking at script. To foreign media, Wen was also
the highest figure in the Chinese government to give free press
conferences, often facing politically sensitive and difficult
questions regarding subjects such as
Taiwan Independence, Tibetan
independence and human rights.
In December 2003, Wen visited the United States for the first time.
During the trip, Wen was able to get President
George W. Bush
George W. Bush to issue
what many saw as a mild rebuke to the then President of the Republic
of China (Taiwan), Chen Shui-bian. Wen has also been on visits to
Canada and Australia, mostly on economic issues. Wen also visited
Japan in April 2007 in what was termed the "de-thawing journey", where
he characterized the relationship between the Asian powers as for
"mutual benefit". He also met with Emperor
Akihito and played
On 15 March 2005, after the anti-secession law was passed, by a
majority of 2,896 to nil, with two abstentions by the National
People's Congress, Wen said: "We don't wish for foreign intervention,
but we are not afraid of it." as an allusion to the United States'
stance on Taiwan. That earned him a long round of applause that was
rare even by Chinese standards.
On 5 March 2007, Wen announced plans to increase the military budget.
By the end of 2007 the military budget rose 17.8 percent from the
previous year's 45 billion dollars, creating tension with the
There were rumours about Wen's retirement and reputed clashes with
former Shanghai party chief
Chen Liangyu before the party's 17th Party
Congress. Some sources suggested that Wen would ask to retire due to
fatigue. Ultimately, Wen stayed on the Premier job, and was
responsible for the drafting of the important speech delivered by
Hu Jintao outlining China's direction in the next five
In January 2008, while during the midst of severe snowstorms, Premier
Wen made his way south and visited train stations in
Guangzhou, addressing the public while calming their mood for long
Tsinghua University in May 2009.
Wen Jiabao was appointed to a second five-year term as premier on 16
March 2008, leading efforts to cool soaring inflation and showcase the
country to the world at the 2008 Summer Olympics. He received fewer
votes in favour than he did in 2003, a sign that the premiership can
create enemies, even in the mere formalities of China's electoral
system. Wen faced grave economic challenges as the world became
increasingly affected by the U.S. economic crisis. Social stability
and regional activism in China's restive hinterland regions also
dominated Wen's policy agenda. On 18 March 2008, during the press
conference after the 2008 National People's Congress, Wen toed the
government line in blaming supporters of the Dalai Lama for violence
in Tibet, and said Chinese security forces exercised restraint in
confronting rioting and unrest in the streets of Lhasa. Wen acted
as the spokesman of the Chinese government during the 2008 unrest in
Tibet and refused to negotiate with the Dalai Lama and his followers,
unless they chose to "give up all separatist activities."
In his final address as China's prime minister Wen warned of the
nation's growing divisions between rich and poor, the hazards of
unchecked environmental degradation and the risks posed by unbalanced
Response to 2008 Sichuan earthquake
2008 Sichuan earthquake
2008 Sichuan earthquake § Rescue efforts
Premier Wen Jiabao's popularity was boosted significantly when he went
to the disaster area of the Sichuan a mere few hours after the
disaster occurred. He declared on national television that
survivors are to be rescued as long as there is "a glimmer of hope".
He was named the General Commander of the Earthquake Relief Efforts
Committee immediately following the disaster. Following his visits to
the area, images of the Premier were displayed on national media,
numerous videos popped up on Chinese video sites making comparisons
with former Premier Zhou Enlai, a largely popular figure who was also
dubbed the "People's Premier". While party leaders are often shown on
state television looking rather stiff and sitting motionlessly, Wen's
on-site image and candid nature attracted a large popular following of
In addition, there was speculation on internet forums as well as
foreign media about the availability of the scientific prediction of
the 2008 earthquake, and Wen was quoted as the only high-ranking
Chinese leader to try to announce the scientific prediction and made
it public, but was somehow prevented by other members of the Politburo
Before the 2009
National People's Congress
National People's Congress convened, on 28 February,
Wen Jiabao went online on video chat to answer queries hosted
by China's official government website gov.cn and the official Xinhua
News Agency. During the session Wen openly advocated for transparency
of the government and remarked that he was somewhat nervous about the
occasion. He received a wide range of questions from large numbers of
online Chinese netizens and chose to answer selected questions about
prominent economic issues, such as global financial breakdown.
At the Congress Wen also passed on a message of reassurance that GDP
growth will not dip below 8% in 2009. Wen did not introduce a new
stimulus package, and played down speculation that part of the
1.18 trillion RMB central government spending was not going
directly into the economy. He also expressed concern about the
security of Beijing's holdings in U.S. treasury debt. In a more
unusual gesture, Wen also expressed interest in visiting Taiwan,
stating he would "crawl there if [he] could not walk".
Wen at the 2009
World Economic Forum
World Economic Forum in Davos.
Wen Jiabao has played a prominent role advancing China's foreign
policy positions and has become increasingly visible on the world
stage as China's economic power expanded. He went on an official
working visit to North Korea on 4 October 2009, the first time a
Chinese Premier has visited North Korea since Li Peng's visit in
1991. He was greeted at the
Pyongyang Airport by ailing North
Korean leader Kim Jong-Il. Kim rarely greeted foreign dignitaries
himself upon their arrival at the airport. Reuters believed this to be
a show of solidarity from North Korea and that the country was serious
in fostering a good relationship with China. Wen also met with
European Union leaders at a China-EU conference in late November 2009,
where he refused calls for China to revalue its Yuan and re-examine
its foreign exchange regime. Wen remarked in
Nanjing that "some
countries are on the one hand pressuring China to appreciate its
currency while on the other hand they are practising trade
protectionism against China in many different forms."
In December, in what was seen as a mild rebuke of Canadian Prime
Stephen Harper during the latter's working visit to China,
Wen stated, "This is your first trip to China and this is the first
meeting between the Chinese Premier and the Canadian Prime Minister in
almost five years. Five years is too long a time for China Canada
relations." However, the interpretation that Wen rebuked Harper
was later disputed in select newspaper editorials. Wen also
travelled to the 2009 UN Climate Change Conference, where he met with
Barack Obama twice to secure an 11th-hour non-binding
agreement on emissions cuts.
Domestic and foreign media have variously described Wen as "populist"
and in touch with the needs of ordinary people. On most social issues
Wen seems to be moderate, with his brand of policies based around
societal harmony as prescribed by the Scientific Development Concept,
the leading ideology of the administration.
In the first term of his Premiership Wen's attitudes towards political
reform seemed ambivalent. He has remarked that "the socialist system
will continue in China for the next 100 years", although later in
a Press Conference at the 2007 National People's Congress, he stated
that "democracy is one of the basic goals of the socialist system".
Furthermore, in an interview in September 2008, Wen acknowledged that
the democratic system in China needs to be improved, where the power
"truly belongs to the people" through the construction of an
independent judicial system and for the government to accept criticism
from the people. Wen, seen as a former ally of Premier Zhao
Ziyang, is likely supportive of the latter's political rehabilitation.
However, Wen has rarely mentioned Zhao publicly during his
premiership. When asked by
CNN whether or not China will liberalize
for free elections in the next 25 years, Wen stated that it would be
"hard to predict." On the subject of Taiwan, Wen reputedly believes in
gradual negotiations. On the subject of Tibet, Wen toes the party line
in condemning the exiled Dalai Lama for inciting "separatist
Science, democracy, rule of law, freedom and human rights are not
concepts unique to capitalism. Rather, they are common values pursued
by mankind in the long historical process and they are the fruits of
human civilization. It is only that at different historical stages and
in different countries, they are achieved through different means and
in different forms.
— Wen Jiabao, Our Historical Tasks at the primary stage of
socialism and Several Issues Concerning China's Foreign Policy,
Xinhua published articles in early 2007 on the direction of national
development. The authorship of the articles was attributed separately
to Wen Jiabao, particularly 26 February piece "Our Historical Tasks at
the Primary Stage of Socialism and Several Issues Concerning China's
Foreign Policy". The article advanced Wen's "peace doctrine" in global
affairs, as well as what appeared to be inclinations towards fostering
social democracy and advocacy of universal values. This was suspected
as a sign that Wen has some differing viewpoints to the official party
line – that values are relativistic and that "Chinese values" are
not necessarily the same as "Western values," and that universal
values is thus an empty concept. The debate continues to rage in
Chinese political circles today, with neo-leftist thinkers such as
Chinese Academy of Social Sciences
Chinese Academy of Social Sciences President
Chen Kuiyuan criticizing
Wen's advocacy of universal values, saying that it relegates Chinese
values and thinking as an inferior alternative to supposedly more
"correct" Western norms.
Wen is perceived by some observers as a liberal voice in China's
ruling elite. Wen has openly talked about democracy and increased
freedoms in his speeches and interviews with foreign correspondents,
although much of it was deemed "sensitive" commentary and censored in
state media. Wen remarked that "someone who speaks is not a criminal,
someone who listens is duly warned" (Chinese:
言者无罪，闻者足戒, which alludes to the classical work Shi
Jing) at an internal party conference in 2009, an event reported on
Xinhua and other state networks. His remarks triggered debate from
netizens, as it seemed to contravene the practices of the Communist
Party, particularly in its suppression of dissent. Analysts noted that
Wen's message was aimed at party members, and not necessarily the
general public because Wen believes freedom of speech has deteriorated
since Hu Jintao's accession to power and has negatively affected
China's political landscape and international reputation. His
comments also ostensibly addressed the pervasive "fake-talking"
present in Chinese political circles, in an attempt to curb systemic
and institutional woes stemming from officials who are afraid to speak
Wen has progressively amped up his liberal rhetoric as his Premiership
continued, remarking in August 2010 that "Without political reform,
China may lose what it has already achieved through economic
restructuring". Wen's comments were largely censored in state
media, but he gained support from a group of some 23 party elders in
October, who denounced the authorities' censorship of Wen's remarks in
an open letter to the National People's Congress. In an interview
Fareed Zakaria on CNN's
Global Public Square
Global Public Square television program
aired in October 2010, Wen made the following statement: "I have
summed up my political ideals into the following four sentences. To
let everyone lead a happy life with dignity. To let everyone feel safe
and secure. To let the society be one with equity and justice. And to
let everyone have confidence in the future. In spite of the various
discussions and views in the society, and in spite of some resistance,
I will act in accordance with these ideals unswervingly, and advance
within the realm of my capabilities political restructuring. I will
like to tell you the following two sentences to reinforce my view on
this point. I will not fall in spite of the strong wind and harsh
rain, and I will not yield until the last day of my life." At the
2012 National People's Congress, Wen mentioned the word "reform" 70
times. He remarked that China must "press ahead with both economic
structural reforms and political structural reforms, in particular
reforms on the leadership system of the Party and the country."
There is also indication from party insiders that Wen has been pushing
the case for the political rehabilitation of the Tiananmen Square
protests of 1989.
Public image and political influence
Wen has been described as a populist by most observers[who?]. His
quick responses and visits to the scenes of various disasters,
including the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, has earned him a considerable
reputation as an approachable leader in touch with the experiences of
the masses. Wen engages regularly with locals on his trips to
various provinces domestically as well as foreign visits; he played
baseball and badminton with Japanese and South Korean citizens during
visits to those countries. "Whether taking a stroll or swimming, it
puts me at ease both mentally and physically and helps me handle my
heavy workload," Wen had remarked.
Wen at the
World Economic Forum
World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland in 2009
Wen's public image has been criticized by Chinese dissident Yu Jie,
who charged that Wen's rhetoric is insincere and empty. Dissidents
such as Yu allege that Wen's parade of appearances on Chinese media is
a carefully managed public relations campaign designed to distract
people from real issues. They say that through use of Wen's
charisma, the government hopes to showcase cosmetic solutions to much
larger, systemic issues in order to placate public opinion. They also
point out that Wen's words are rarely translated into deeds. On the
other hand, Li Datong, a pro-democracy advocate, in an interview with
the Associated Press, stated that "among the top Chinese leaders, who
else speaks about democracy? Who else speaks about universal values
and freedom?... Wen is the only one." Li believes that Wen is
genuinely calling for democratic reform but he is powerless to make
major decisions on the matter due to internal opposition. Wen's
family members have also been subject to gossip and scrutiny outside
of mainland China. Taiwanese media zoomed in on his wife's alleged
personal fortunes from her jewelry business, while the Financial
Times reported on a private equity firm called New Horizon Capital
co-founded by Wen's son Wen Yunsong.
When he was the head of the Chinese government,
Wen Jiabao was
considered to be one of the most powerful statesmen in the world. In
2006, he was named to the
Time 100 list. In 2009, Wen was named
one of ten people and the only non-American in a list compiled by ABC
of people who shaped the U.S. economy the most since 2000. Wen
also topped a list of "10 leaders to watch" in 2010 released 19
January by Eurasia Group, a global political risk research and
consulting firm. Behind that U.S. President
Barack Obama came
second. In August 2010, Wen was named "The Man of the People"
by Newsweek. In October 2010,
Wen Jiabao was a person selected on
the Time's cover that the title was "Wen's World". In 2011, Wen
was ranked 14th in Forbes Magazine's List of The World's Most Powerful
Personal life and family wealth
Wen Jiabao is married to Zhang Peili, whom he met while working as a
government geologist in Gansu. Zhang is a jewellery expert and has
played a prominent role in the nation's diamond trade. She rarely
appears with Wen in public. According to a U.S. diplomatic cable
posted in Wikileaks, Wen considered divorcing his wife due to being
"disgusted" by how she used his name to extract huge commissions in
the diamond trade. They have a son, Wen Yunsong, who is CEO of
Unihub, a Chinese mobile services company. The daughter, Wen Ruchun,
held shares of a Chinese jewelry company called Gallop. His mother
Yang Zhiyun (also known as Yang Xiu'an) owns an investments in Ping An
Insurance worth $120 million. In October 2012, The New York Times
reported that Wen's relatives have controlled financial assets worth
at least US$2.7 billion during his time as Premier. In
response, a Chinese government spokesman stated that the report
"blackens China's name and has ulterior motives", and the websites of
The New York Times
The New York Times were censored in mainland China. Lawyers
representing Wen's family also denied the report's content. Wen
personally wrote a letter submitted to the Politburo Standing
Committee asking for an investigation to the claim and willing to make
his family asset public. Professor Zhu Lijia, of the Chinese Academy
of Governance, suggest that this is Wen's last try to push the passing
of the "Sunshine" law, which require government officials to release
their financial information to public. Professor Jean-Pierre
Cabestan of Hong Kong's Baptist University questioned the timing of
the report and suggested "It looks very much [like] some people close
Bo Xilai are trying to throw mud at the reformists".
Wen is said to have an introverted personality. He has stated that his
one regret so far in life was "Never having learned to drive a manual
car." Wen is known for his adept use of
Chinese poetry to convey
political and diplomatic messages, to respond to journalists, or
simply to begin a speech.
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Hu Jintao Era
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Premier of the People's Republic of China
Party political offices
Chief of the General Office of the Communist Party of China
Chairman of the State Commission for Public Sector Reform
Leader of the Leading Group for Financial and Economic Affairs
Chairman of the National Defence Mobilisation Commission
Chairman of the National Energy Commission
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Premiers of the State Council of China
List of premiers of the People's Republic of China
Vice Premiers of the People's Republic of China (list)
Deng Xiaoping (added 1952)
Nie Rongzhen (added 1956)
Bo Yibo (added 1956)
Lin Biao (died 1971)
Chen Yun (dismissed 1969)
Deng Xiaoping (dismissed 1968, reinstated 1973)
He Long (died 1969)
Chen Yi (died 1972)
Ke Qingshi (died 1965)
Ulanhu (dismissed 1968)
Li Fuchun (died 1975)
Bo Yibo (dismissed 1967)
Lu Dingyi (dismissed 1966)
Luo Ruiqing (dismissed 1966)
Tao Zhu (died 1969)
Xie Fuzhi (died 1972)
Deng Xiaoping (dismissed 1976, reinstated 1977)
Zhang Chunqiao (dismissed 1977)
Wu Guixian (resigned 1977)
5th Cabinet (1978)
Wang Renzhong (added 1979)
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Qiao Shi (added 1986)
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Wu Bangguo (added 1995)
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Huang Ju (died 2007)
17th Politburo of the
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Hu Jintao (general secretary)
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Bo Xilai (expelled 2012)
16th Politburo of the
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Communist Party of China (2002–2007)
Hu Jintao (general secretary)
2. Wu Bangguo
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Huang Ju (died 2007)
7. Wu Guanzheng
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Chen Liangyu (expelled 2006)
15th Politburo of the
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Communist Party of China (1997–2002)
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Xie Fei (died 1999)
14th Politburo of the
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Communist Party of China (1992–1997)
Jiang Zemin (general secretary)
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Chen Xitong (expelled 1995)
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