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Wang Qishan, right, former member of the Politburo Standing Committee, walks behind Chinese President Xi Jinping at the opening of the National People's Congress in Beijing on March 5.   © Reuters
China People's Congress 2018

Wang Qishan near center of power at China party congress

Xi's right-hand man returns to national politics after brief retirement

BEIJING -- China's annual National People's Congress got underway in Beijing on Monday, with Wang Qishan drawing particular attention near the center of the political action.

The 69-year-old right-hand man of President Xi Jinping stepped down from the Communist Party's highest decision-making body, the Politburo Standing Committee, last October. But he remains in the legislature and there is lingering speculation he may be named vice president or to some other key post. 

Among the 2,980 delegates in attendance, about 190 top military and legal officials, along with bureaucrats, sat near the front. Wang was seated not far from Xi, along with new and former Standing Committee members.

Wang, wearing a dark blue suit, was the 10th person to enter the hall. As Premier Li Keqiang read out the government's progress report, Wang appeared to watch the attendees, hardly glancing down at his documents.

Wang has been close to Xi for four decades. When Xi became the general secretary of the party in 2012, he made Wang head of the party's Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, putting him in charge of Xi's anti-corruption campaign. By eliminating Xi's opponents, including former Standing Committee member Zhou Yongkang, Wang helped Xi solidify his grip on power. 

Having reached the informal retirement age of 68, Wang stepped down from the Standing Committee post in October. But in January, Wang was named to the National People's Congress as a representative of a local assembly in Hunan Province. Such a return to a formal political role is rare for a retired Standing Committee member. 

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