In the twisting maze of Chinese politics, Li Shulei, a charismatic and influential figure, has skyrocketed to the top like a force of nature. Recently appointed as the head of the Publicity Department of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and a member of the elite Politburo, Li now steers the mighty ship of China’s gargantuan propaganda machine. Hang on as we delve deeper into the story of Li’s life, his meteoric rise, and the implications of his new high-powered role.
The Journey of a Prodigy
Born in January 1964, Li’s extraordinary journey began in China’s heartland, Yuanyang County, Henan province. His prodigious intellect was evident from a young age when he entered Peking University at just 14 to study library sciences. It wasn’t long before he earned the attention-grabbing nickname “Peking University Prodigy.” Li continued to dazzle academically, acquiring bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate degrees in Chinese literature.
Li’s academic prowess led him to the Central Party School of the CCP, the top academy where the party trains officials, where he taught and researched literary history. His remarkable talents did not go unnoticed, and in 1999, he was selected to study at the prestigious Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Politics, an institution attended by many senior Chinese officials.
A Fateful Encounter and a Leap into Politics
In December 2008, Li’s career took a dramatic turn when he became the vice president of the Central Party School under none other than now-Chinese leader Xi Jinping himself. This fateful encounter would forge a bond that catapulted Li into the upper echelons of the CCP. As Xi’s deputy, Li wrote many speeches for him, and their shared passion for China’s destiny seemed to have solidified their alliance.
Li’s rise was unstoppable. He continued to climb the ranks, checking all the CCP boxes for expertise. By January 2014, he assumed the role of a member of the Fujian provincial party standing committee and head of party propaganda, marking his entry into the political arena. He continued his ascent as secretary of Beijing’s municipal anti-corruption entity, the commission for discipline inspection (CDI), in December 2016. In January 2017, Li became deputy secretary of the central CDI, co-leading the anti-corruption campaign at a national level.
By April 2022, Li returned to the Publicity Department as executive deputy head under Huang Kunming. In October 2022, with Huang Kunming’s retirement, Li assumed his current position as head of the Publicity Department and joined the Politburo’s exclusive circle of decision-makers. According to Intelligence Online, Xi Jinping is counting on Li to burnish his image as the “people’s leader”, drawing on the legacy of the “great leader” Mao Zedong and solidifying the president’s centrality to the Chinese political system.