Li Xi gets graft-busting role on China's new Standing Committee

New Politburo Standing Committee member Li Xi leaves the podium after meeting the media following the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China October 23, 2022. REUTERS/Tingshu Wang

BEIJING, Oct 23 (Reuters) - Li Xi, the Communist Party chief of the economic powerhouse Guangdong province, assumed two new titles on Sunday when he was elevated to the elite Politburo Standing Committee and put in charge of the party's influential graft-busting body.

While Li, 66, is not known to have worked directly with Xi Jinping during his career - unlike the other three new members named on Sunday to the Standing Committee - he is nonetheless viewed by analysts as having gained Xi's trust to secure such a sensitive role.

The Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI), which roots out and punishes corruption within the 97 million-member party, is extremely powerful and fighting corruption has been a signature tool of Xi's rule since he became China's supreme leader a decade ago.

Xi's corruption fight has proven popular among a public that had grown fed up with widespread graft, and has also helped him consolidate power by replacing rivals with his own loyalists, analysts say.

Even by the opaque standards of Chinese elite politics, relatively little is publicly known about Li.

Li's ties to Xi stem in part from his indirect links to Xi's late father, the Communist Party revolutionary Xi Zhongxun.

Li hails from the rural county of Liangdang in northwest China's Gansu province, the same county where Xi's father led a military uprising against the nationalists in April 1932.

From 1982-1986, after graduating with a degree in Chinese language and literature, Li served as an assistant to Li Ziqi, a fellow 1930s uprising participant and former comrade-in-arms of Xi's father.

Li spent most of the first three decades of his career in the northwest of China, both in Gansu, a relatively poor province which party watchers say is viewed as a "hardship" posting, and neighbouring Shaanxi province.

In 2011, Li was transferred to Shanghai where, over several years he served in several senior party roles. His career took off in 2015 when he was appointed party secretary of Liaoning province in China's northeast.

"As party secretary of Liaoning, Li Xi was known for his tough stance against corruption and his enthusiastic support for Xi's call for more strict enforcement of party discipline," said Cheng Li, Director of the John L. Thornton China Center at The Brookings Institution.

In 2017, he was named Guangdong party boss, a coveted role that propelled him onto the 25-member Politburo.

Li's stint in Guangdong is regarded as an important economic credential. All but one of the last five party chiefs in Guangdong, which borders Hong Kong, have subsequently joined the Standing Committee.

Reporting by Martin Quin Pollard; Editing by Lincoln Feast

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