Expert Speak Raisina Debates
Published on Sep 26, 2017
Xi’s winning formula: Cut CYL to size

Source Image: Chinese President Xi

The ‘princelings’ had been in a longstanding feud with the Communist Youth League (CYL) that has produced till now a President (Hu Jintao); a Premier (Li Keqiang) and potentially another President, come March, 2023, Hu Chunhua.

If Xi Jinping were to decide not to throw Constitutional conventions out of the country, the Sixth Generation of the Chinese leadership will be ushered into the top jobs by early next decade. And many of them would be from the CYL.

But Xi, once a ‘princeling’ (taizidang) now the prince who looms over Chinese national institutions – he holds 12 offices of the Chinese Party-State – have a running feud with the CYL (tuanpai). The issue is obviously power-sharing and parallel power centres. The CYL is comprised of millions of Chinese youth from the age of 14-28 years who become members as they get a better opportunity for education and almost an assured government job.

In fact, when Deng Xiaoping had begun the process of his ‘reform and opening up’ programme, he had found a ready constituency amongst the CYL members.


They still continue to populate almost 90 per cent of the government jobs and are the biggest backers of the continued ‘reform’ process. They have to share power with the PLA and the cadres of the State Owned Enterprises (SoEs). It remains an obvious area of conflict.

As they say the trouble in ‘Paradise’ began with the low hanging fruit, Xi was planning to begin the process of cutting the CYL to size by disposing off the Premier, Li Keqiang. But he got thwarted. Instead, he cut the financial allocation to the organisation by half – from 624 million Yuan in 2015 to 306 million Yuan in 2016, as reported by the US-based Chinese news source, Epoch Times. He also downgraded its current chief, the First Secretary Qin Yizhi, removing him from him from Beijing. The South China Morning Post has also reported that he is being made into a deputy head of a government agency under the State Council.

An action like this has three political messages embedded: one, it says that the CYL is no longer the route for its important cadres to gold plated jobs in the Party or the State; two, it tells the PLA that while its primacy is being reduced as the vanguard force of the Chinese State, its loss of influence is also being balanced off by shedding the weight of the CYL; and thirdly, it sends the message of Hu-Li team that they will not be able to pack the Central Committee and the Polit Bureau like they during the 18th CPC Congress. Only the PBSC was the sole preserve of Xi, who had a complete sway over the seven member body with six members of his own, including himself.

Interestingly, Xi’s ‘catching tigers and flies’ campaign has devoured at least seven prominent CPC frontrunners for big offices.


According to Dr Cheng Li,  one of the foremost scholars of Chinese elite politics in the USA, “seven of these former officials (Su Shulin, Chen Chuanping, Wang Yongchun, Wan Qingliang, Pan Yiyang, Yang Weize, and Yu Yuanhui) were born in the 1960s and thus had been considered up-and-coming leaders of the future generation.”

As Li, pointed out they were all members of the CC, and potentially some of them could end up at the PB at the 19th CPC Congress. However, the most important catch has been Sun Zengcai, the man who was at the edge of attaining the second highest office – the Premier and the head of the State Council.

Sun is believed to have been caught by what is known as the ‘Chongqing curse.’ There was a time when he was hailed as the man who had handled a potentially explosive fall-out of the Bo Xilai arrest, his highly publicised (on social media) trial and his jailing. But he is now in the hands of CCID authorities for yet to be publicised charges. Some say it could be financial corruption or hatching a conspiracy against Xi. Or it could be both. Meanwhile, his dreams lay shattered. And the CYL is reeling from the impact.

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Pinaki Bhattacharya

Pinaki Bhattacharya

Pinaki Bhattacharya is a strategic studies expert for over two decades as a journalist and as a member of the strategic security community. He has ...

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