The major beneficiary of the power transition will be Mr Xi, 59, China’s vice president and President Hu Jintao’s anointed successor, who is due to take over as Communist Party boss at the congress and then as head of state in March. Despite being one of the party’s dynastic “princelings”, Mr Xi began his political career in China’s poor, rural northwest and has worked his way up through the party ranks.
Vice Premier Li, 57, is tipped to take over from Wen Jiabao as China’s premier – a extraordinary rise to power for man who had been sent to work in the countryside during Mao’s Cultural Revolution as a youth. He was taken into the fold of China’s all-powerful standing committee in 2007.
With a reputation in the West as a beacon of political reform, the 57-year-old party chief of Guangdong province was not included in a list of preferred Standing Committee candidates, but is still believed to be firmly in the running.
Currently the only woman on the 25-member Politburo, the 66 year-old is also the only woman with a serious chance of joining the standing committee – an organisation that no woman (not even Jiang Qing, widow of late Chairman Mao Zedong) has joined since 1949. If promoted, she could head up parliament’s advisory body.