Among the new members of the PSC, Wang Qishan is almost certainly the one that Western policymakers are most acquainted with. This is primarily because of his involvement with the Chinese financial sector including as director of the China Investment Bank and the China Construction Bank. Despite his current status as a vice-primer, Wang Qishan had quite humble beginnings. He was born in Shanxi province to a father who worked as a professor at Tsinghua University. He has acquired “princeling” status, however, through his marriage to Yao Mingshan, the daughter of a former vice-premier, who he met during the Cultural Revolution.
In addition to farming, during the Cultural Revolution Wang also worked in a museum while pursuing a history degree at the Northwestern University in Xi’an. Wang Qishan’s research experience got him his first position with the Rural Policy Research office of the CCP. From there he received a managerial position at the Agricultural Credit and Investment Company, which, after winning a series of promotions, ultimately led to his appointment as president of a number of banks and investment firms. His success in the financial sector was rewarded by the party when he was appointed vice-governor of Guangdong, a fast developing southern province. (Wang Yang, the rising star who many felt would be appointed to the PSC, is secretary of Guangdong, Wang Yang).
To compliment his experience in finance and management, Wang was appointed as mayor of Beijing in 2003 to oversee the SARS epidemic, and later was heavily involved in planning the 2008 Olympics as well as the Party’s response to the global financial crisis. In light of these successes and his role in the bank debt restructuring of the early 1990s, Wang has earned a reputation as someone willing to take on, successfully, the hardest problems facing the country. This has earned him the nickname “chief of the fire brigade.”
Wang’s impressive resume has given him strong credibility as an economically liberal, and many thought that he would be given a role assisting Premier Li on financial issues. Ultimately, it appears that the fear of Wang overshadowing Li on economic issues, led the CCP leadership to appoint Wang as head of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, which is tasked with rooting out corruption among party cadres. While an important post, albeit, ranking him sixth in the CCP hierarchy, its portfolio is decidedly non-economic. Nonetheless, “the chief of the fire brigade” will certainly be challenged in seeking to curtail party corruption, which both President Hu and Xi Jinping stressed as a key challenge to the Party’s durability in their outgoing and incoming speeches as secretary general of the CCP, respectively.