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.
Mastering the Art of Narratives
As China’s new chief propagandist, Li now wields immense power and faces monumental challenges. Tasked with implementing Xi Jinping’s vision across ideology, films, internet, and media, Li is also expected to drive Beijing’s efforts in shaping the global narrative on China amidst escalating tensions with the US and other nations over hot-button issues like Taiwan, human rights, trade, and Covid-19 origins.
In one of his first duties, Li presented a glowing report on the recent 20th party congress to the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (NPC) on October 27th. He emphasized the congress’s achievements and goals, including building a modern socialist country by mid-century, upholding socialism with Chinese characteristics, and strengthening party leadership.
Shortly after, Li attended the fifth Hongqiao International Economic Forum in Beijing, where he delivered an optimistic speech titled “Building a Community of Shared Future for Mankind: China’s Contribution.” He called for global cooperation and emphasized China’s development and reform achievements while advocating for dialogue and mutual trust between different civilizations and cultures.
A Rising Star’s Legacy
The CCP values talent and loyalty, as evidenced by Li Shulei’s quick rise from academia to the top levels of Chinese politics. He is a key player in shaping and swaying public opinion both inside and outside of China. His career path provides a rare window into the inner workings of the CCP and the value it accords to those who share its mission and values.
Li Shulei is in a prime position to have a significant impact on China’s domestic and global landscape at this point in his political career. As the master of spin, he will be in charge of shaping and promoting the nation’s policies while navigating the difficulties of international diplomacy and a dynamic media landscape. Li’s role is even more crucial in light of the escalating global challenges, such as pandemics, climate change, and geopolitical rivalries. The future success of China on the international stage will largely depend on his capacity to convey China’s position, promote cooperation, and manage international perceptions.
Li Shulei’s influence will undoubtedly increase as he continues to shape the perception of China both domestically and internationally. Li is a key political player in China and a close ally of President Xi Jinping, so his choices and deeds will not only have a significant effect on China’s future but also have a global impact. The full scope of Li’s legacy and the permanent imprint he will make on Chinese history will become clear in time.