Xi Jinping Makes New Round of Personnel Changes Ahead of Communist Party Conclave

October 26, 2020 Updated: October 26, 2020

As the fifth plenary session of the Nineteenth Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is about to be held in Beijing on Oct. 26, political rearrangements have been taking place this month.

The plenary session is a closed-door meeting among the elite CCP officials. Beijing usually keeps details secret until after the meeting ends.

On Oct. 20, the heads of Xinhua News Agency and People’s Daily, the two leading mouthpieces of the CCP, were replaced, according to Chinese media reports.

He Ping, 63, is appointed as the new head of Xinhua News Agency, as well as its Party chief and editor-in-chief. He has been with the agency for several years and held different posts, including member of the Party leadership group, deputy president, and executive deputy editor-in-chief.

Tuo Zhen, 61, is the new head of People’s Daily and its current editor-in-chief since 2018. He served as the editor-in-chief of state-run media Economic Daily, the deputy director of the Xinhua News Agency, the director of the Publicity Department of Guangdong Province, and the deputy director of the Central Propaganda Department.

Tuo has a proven record of carrying out the CCP’s propaganda campaign and making sure the media outlets toe the Party line. In January 2013, during his tenure as director of the Propaganda Department of Guangdong Province, Tuo changed the New Year’s greeting in the Chinese newspaper Southern Weekly from “Chinese Dream, Constitutional Dream” to “We Are Closer to Our Dream Than Ever.”

Epoch Times Photo
Tuo Zhen, former deputy head of the Publicity Department of the CCP, attends a press conference prior to the opening session of the 19th Communist Party Congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Oct. 17, 2017. (Fred Dufour/AFP/Getty Images)

In response, more than 50 former editors and reporters of Southern Weekly issued an open letter, accusing Tuo of “making an unnecessary revision” (a veiled criticism of violating press freedom), and demanded that he take the blame and resign from his post.

Many supporters also gathered outside Southern Weekly’s headquarters in Guangdong.

After the incident, Guangdong authorities further clamped down on public opinion and reorganized the newspaper’s management.

Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post called the incident “the first major political scandal of 2013.”

However, Tuo was not held accountable for the scandal. Instead, he was promoted to the position of deputy director of the Central Propaganda Department in June 2015. And he was appointed to be the editor-in-chief of the People’s Daily in April 2018.

Tuo’s quick rise in his political career resulted from his decisiveness to crack down on the Southern Weekly, according to various Western media reports, including the BBC.

In the first three weeks of October, six deputy provincial-level Party secretaries have taken up their posts, Chinese media reported. These new officials include Lan Tianli in the Guangxi region; Hu Henghua in Shaanxi Province; Wang Ruilian in Hubei Province; Chen Gang in Hebei Province; and Yu Shaoliang in Shanghai City.

According to a report by Chinese news portal Duowei News, these officials are only the local “third commanders” when it comes to the power structure of the CCP and “they are not essential.” However, they would make a good fit for Xi’s future administration, the report said.

The latest developments suggest that the CCP has been quickly reorganizing its personnel in preparation of the Twentieth Central Committee of the CCP, according to Hong Kong-based Ming Pao.