Asia Society’s Thomas said the more concentrated power within the party, the greater the clout wielded by the secretary-general’s chief of staff.
“They are similar to the Chief of Staff to the President of the United States in that they often spend the most time with the supreme leader and serve as their political gatekeeper. America is a federal democracy,” he said.
From the beginning of his career, Xi showed great interest in the work of general offices at all levels and senior management chief of staff.
He stressed the importance of his role as policy adviser to the aides working in the General Affairs Office, in addition to the heavy task of maintaining logistics to support regional heads.
“If the General Office can analyze information from all sides and provide key policy proposals on a regular basis, as trusted by overseas brains, it will facilitate the rapid decision-making process of our leaders,” he said in an interview. In 1990, when he was the party secretary of Yingde, Fujian Province, he worked for a local magazine.
It has become an aspirational target for officials who later entered Xi Jinping’s entourage, including Ding, who was Xi Jinping’s chief of staff from 2017 to March of this year and is now China’s first deputy premier and sixth-ranking party official.
In a 2008 article published in a mainland Chinese magazine on issues involving official secretaries, then-Chief of Shanghai Party Secretary Yu Zhengsheng, Ding, said his most important job was to provide policy proposals. Ding was also chief of staff to President Xi Jinping, who spent about half a year as party secretary in Shanghai in 2007.
Ding added that it was important for the chief of staff to empathize with the thoughts of top officials, and that it was beneficial to learn from top officials’ mindsets and “work skills”.
Xi Jinping said in an interview in 1990 that aides in the General Affairs Office should also know when to keep their mouths shut, and leaks of information could complicate the situation and damage the unity of the party leadership.
“There are many secrets in the affairs of the General Office, and there are clear regulations on the scope of briefings for each file,” he said.
“Especially when it comes to political and economic information, you have to be very responsible and get used to being silent outside.”
The party sees the secrecy of insider activity as a key indicator of political discipline and loyalty.
In March, Xinhua News Agency published a lengthy article revealing how the Chinese government selected high-ranking officials, and welcomed that there was not a single leak in the process of selecting dozens of high-ranking officials.
Near the end of the 1990 interview, President Xi Jinping demanded that more general affairs officials be promoted after becoming general secretary in 2012.
Four out of six members of the current Politburo Standing Committee, the pinnacle of the party’s powerful power structure, worked for local party committees or the government’s General Secretary.
Three people, including Ding, worked in the General Affairs Office directly under Xi Jinping. Cai was at the provincial government office when Xi Jinping was in Fujian, and Li Chang, Xi’s chief of staff for Zhejiang Province, was appointed prime minister last month.
Li Zhansu resigned from the presidency of China’s legislative National People’s Congress in March.
According to Li Ling of the University of Vienna, the selection of Cai as chief of staff and the elevation of the office may have something to do with the need for more and more top-level party committees.
Chances are the office will need to be in the proper ranks to be able to regulate the flow of information between these top agencies, she said.
Thomas said the choice of 67-year-old Cai might suggest that Xi lacked complete trust in the younger generation.
“Since many of the political allies with whom Xi Jinping worked closely early in his career have retired or are approaching retirement age, Tsai’s promotion may indicate Xi Jinping’s relative lack of trust in his lower-level loyalists in the Politburo,” he said.
“Xi Jinping may be reluctant to appoint a young official he does not know personally to such a sensitive role.”
this article Originally posted on SCMP.