With China’s big political reshuffle looming, new No 2 propaganda chief is appointed from party academy

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Li Shulei, the top ranked vice-president in the Communist Party’s academy, has been appointed the No 2 propaganda chief of the party.

Li, 58, attended a Ministry of Ecology and Environment event in Liaoning on Sunday in the capacity of executive deputy chief of the party’s propaganda department, according to a post by the ministry.

The news is the first confirmation of the new role for Li, seen by many as a rising star who might be further promoted to the 25-strong Politburo at the national party congress, a twice-in-a-decade political reshuffle.

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The event, set to take place this autumn, will see a new line-up of Communist Party leadership but President Xi Jinping is expected to stay as its top leader.

In the new role, Li will oversee daily operation of the propaganda department, now headed by Huang Kunming, a member of the Politburo.

The department and its local branches are in charge of supervising the country’s news media, films, radio, television, internet carriers and think tanks.

Li filled the vacancy left by Wang Xiaohui, who was assigned as party chief of Sichuan province in April.

Since 2012, Li has sat on the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, which has more than a hundred officials. Alongside the Central Committee, the CCDI is one of the party’s talent pools and is also considered an important stepping stone for career advancement.

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Li is known for his academic performance from a very young age, earning him a ticket to study Peking University’s librarian major at the age of 14 in 1978.

On graduation, Li joined the Central Party School, the top academy where the party trains officials, and rose steadily through the ranks.

Li was promoted to vice-president of the party school in 2008, a year after then vice-president Xi Jinping took the helm of the academy, a title that, until very recently, usually goes to the successor-in-waiting for the party’s top job, when there is a clear successor.

He was subsequently moved from job to job, ticking the most important boxes in expertise required by the party in different disciplines.

Li was sent to Fujian province, one of Xi’s power-base provinces, in 2014 to head the provincial propaganda department and a year later was assigned to head discipline inspection in the city of Beijing.

In 2017, he was named one of the deputies of CCDI, co-leading the anti-corruption campaign at a national level.

He was moved back to the Central Party School in December 2020 and promoted to its No 2 position.

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