ChinaMarch 24 2023, 6:06 am

Li Shulei: The Meteoric Rise of China’s Charismatic Propaganda Prodigy

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.




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