(Bloomberg) -- Xi Jinping’s new chief of staff is the highest ranking Communist Party official in four decades to take the job — in a sign of the Chinese leader’s tightening grip on power in the world’s No. 2 economy.
Former Beijing party boss Cai Qi was named head of the party Central Committee’s General Office, a key position that handles administrative and logistical matters.
The appointment was made public in a government statement late Monday about Xi’s visit to Moscow. Cai is serving in his new capacity on Xi’s trip to meet Russian leader Vladimir Putin.
Read: Putin Tells Xi He’ll Discuss China’s Blueprint for Ukraine
The 67-year-old Cai is the first person on the ruling party’s supreme Politburo Standing Committee to serve in the role since Wang Dongxing, Mao Zedong’s chief body guard, in the late 1970s. Cai’s predecessors, including former Premier Wen Jiabao, gained promotion to the now-seven member body only after holding the chief of staff job.
Cai has enjoyed a meteoric rise under Xi, the most powerful China leader since Mao. The pair overlapped earlier in their careers while working in coastal Zhejiang and Fujian provinces. He was named party secretary of the Chinese capital in 2017. Cai oversaw Beijing hosting China’s first Winter Olympics, where the nation bagged a record number of gold medals and successfully implemented a Covid bubble.
Given Cai’s ties to Xi, what the appointment makes clear is “Xi’s greater direct control over the party apparatus,” said Ja Ian Chong, an associate professor of political science at the National University of Singapore.
Xi has already broken with precedent, such as age norms and previous experience, to install allies in key posts in the party and government.
More: Xi Tightens Communist Party Grip Over China in Major Revamp
Cai’s appointment is one of the final pieces of a reshuffle that kicked off in October at a major party congress and culminated earlier this month with Xi winning a unanimous vote of lawmakers for a third term as president. Xi’s former aide, Li Qiang, was also named premier at the annual National People’s Congress event.
Cai succeeds Ding Xuexiang as chief of staff and also heads the Central Secretariat, where he oversees ideology and day-to-day party affairs.
--With assistance from Zheng Wu.
©2023 Bloomberg L.P.
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