Born in April 1945, Yu Zhengsheng is one of the oldest members of the Politburo, having joined the CCP in 1964 and been first elected as an alternative member to the Central Committee during the 14th Party Congress in 1992. Yu also has the‘‘princeling’’ pedigree to match his experience, including a father who was once married to Jiang Qing, Mao’s third and final wife. Yu’s family connections haven’t always helped him, however, as his brother, a high-ranking intelligence officer, defected to the United States in 1985, somehow not derailing Yu’s career entirely in the process.
Yu received a degree in missile engineering and worked on radio communication for much of his early years. Later he served as mayor of two cities in Shandong before joining the central government as minister of construction. More recently he was the party chief of Hubei Province and, since 2007, has been the party secretary of Shanghai.
Yu’s seniority was likely important in him landing a spot on the PSC as the CCP leadership appears to have opted for the more experienced contenders over younger rising stars like Wang Yang. His age may limit his activity as a PSC member, however. In 2010 Yu described his experience hosting the Shanghai World Expo as “extremely tiring.”
Yu is fairly conservative politically speaking. That being said, he has sometimes yielded to public pressure in recent years, such as when he called a new round of hearings on a proposed maglev rail line in response to protests. More curiously, the CYL newspaper reported in March that Yu responded in an open letter to a Shanghai-based netizin’s complaints about the health care his father had received when battling cancer. According to the newspaper article, in the letter Yu admitted that the healthcare system had numerous shortcomings and vowed to improve it in the manner that the netizen had demanded. On the other hand, Yu has been criticized for his handling of the tragic 2010 fire that burned down a high-rise building in Shanghai, killing 58 people. Many contractors were detained in the aftermath, and two officials were later dismissed while many others were reprimanded, but Yu escaped from the incident unscathed.
Yu is considered a protégé of both Deng Xiaoping, having worked for Deng’s son, Pufang, as well as Jiang Zemin, who he worked under at the Ministry of Electronics Industry. Although Yu is seen as cut from the Shanghai growth-first cloth, he said in an interview with Renmin Ribao in August that “modernization is a process of mankind adapting to the changes of the times and pursuing civilization and progress rather than merely an economic take-off.”