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China gets a new propaganda chief

China gets a new propaganda chief

Beijing named its new propaganda chief on Wednesday, as Xí Jìnpíng 习近平 kicks off his third term as China’s leader with top leadership appointments following the conclusion of the 20th Party Congress.

Lǐ Shūlěi 李书磊, 58, was a longtime former senior official of the Central Party School, which provides ideological instruction and other types of training to Party members, before his appointment as the new chief of the Publicity Department (formerly the Propaganda Department) of the Communist Party’s Central Committee.

  • The move was expected, given that Li was promoted as the department’s second-in-command just four months before the Party Congress.

Li’s appointment comes as Xi pads his foreign policy team with “his most loyal and combative envoys,” the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reports, with officials like Qín Gāng 秦刚, Xi’s hand-picked ambassador to the U.S., as the frontrunner for China’s foreign minister position in the spring, and the appointment of Acting Foreign Minister Wáng Yì 王毅 into the powerful 24-member Politburo on Sunday.

  • Qin Gang, 56, was appointed to the 205-member Central Committee on Saturday. A “pioneer of excoriating one-liners,” as The China Project’s Lizzi Lee once described him, he is the first acting ambassador to attain full membership of the elite body since the end of the Mao era, per the WSJ.
  • Wang Yi, 69, was previously not considered particularly aggressive, but has led China’s “wolf-warrior” diplomacy since he took the role as the country’s foreign minister in 2013, apparently earning Xi’s trust.
  • Meanwhile, Wáng Xiǎodōng 王小东, the pioneering voice behind China’s nationalistic rhetoric and co-author of the 2009 bestseller China is Unhappy which argued for a more aggressive posture on the world stage, warned of the increasingly loud and combative language from Beijing and the country’s patriotic internet warriors: “I created them,” he said in an interview with the New York Times. “But I never told them to be this crazy.”

The post Party Congress leadership choices signal that Xi is adhering to his existing policies, opting for stability and security first, while raising concern that China’s diplomatic positions — including on Russia and on Taiwan — will harden.

Xi has, however, offered a carrot to the United States: In remarks reported by state media (in English and Chinese), he told a meeting of the U.S. National Committee on U.S.-China relations that the two global superpowers must “find the right way to get along” to ensure worldwide peace and stability.

  • Meanwhile, a defense ministry spokesperson, Tán Kèfēi 谭克非, told a news conference on Thursday that China wants military communications with the U.S., but “red lines” remain.

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