By Benjamin Kang Lim and Philip Wen
BEIJING (Reuters) - President Xi Jinping of China is expected to place trusted allies in the Communist Party's key decision-making Politburo during a leadership reshuffle at the 19th party Congress this autumn, according to multiple Chinese sources and foreign diplomats.
A key measure of Xi's power will be how many of his allies are installed on the 25-member committee.
At least 10 Politburo members are slated to retire due to an unwritten rule that politicians step down if they are 68 or older when they take on a new five-year term.
And the youngest Politburo member, Sun Zhengcai, 53, is out of the running. He served as Chongqing party boss before being put under investigation in July for disciplinary violations, Communist Party jargon for corruption.
The fate of the top corruption watchdog, Wang Qishan, 69, is also the subject of widespread conjecture. It is unclear if he will retain his seat in the elite seven-member Politburo Standing Committee, despite his age, and therefore his spot on the wider Politburo.
The State Council Information Office, which doubles as the spokesman's office for the cabinet and party, declined to comment on Politburo candidates when reached by telephone and fax.
Possible newcomers to the Politburo among Xi's allies (surnames in alphabetical order):* Cai Qi, 61, has enjoyed a meteoric rise under Xi and isconsidered a shoo-in after he was named party boss of Beijing inMay, despite not being a full or alternate member of the widerCentral Committee. He has been a Politburo member since 1987.Cai overlapped with Xi during the future president's 17-yearstint in the southeastern province of Fujian, and in the easterncoastal province of Zhejiang, where Xi was party boss from 2002to 2007. Cai is a native of Fujian. * Chen Miner, 56, was seen to have performed strongly as theleader of Guizhou province before being named party boss of thesouthwestern metropolis of Chongqing on July 15, replacing Sun.Chen, a native of Zhejiang, is also virtually assured of a seatin the Politburo given his position in Chongqing, the sourcessaid. Chen is a dark horse candidate to catapult straight ontothe Standing Committee. * Chen Quanguo, 61, was promoted to party chief of therestive far-western region of Xinjiang, bringing along with himthe tough ethnic management policies he implemented at hisprevious post in Tibet. Chen has never worked closely with Xi. * Chen Xi, 64 this month, a native of Fujian, is tipped tobe promoted to minister of the party's organization department,overseeing the promotion and deployment of party officials. Heis currently vice-minister at the department. Chen shared adormitory with Xi when the two attended the prestigious TsinghuaUniversity in the late 1970s. * Ding Xuexiang, 55 this month, is likely to become directorof the General Office of the Central Committee. He is currentlyNo 2 in the General Office, which oversees day-to-day operationsof the Politburo. Ding worked for Xi when the latter was partyboss in Shanghai. * He Lifeng, 62, chairman of the cabinet's NationalDevelopment and Reform Commission, is a strong candidate tobecome one of five state councillors, a rank above cabinetminister but below vice premier. If he is named one of four vicepremiers next March, he would be a favorite for the Politburo.He worked in Fujian from 1984 to 2009, overlapping with Xi, whowas governor from 2000 to 2002. * Huang Kunming, 60, a native of Fujian, is the front-runnerto become the party's propaganda minister. He is currently No 1vice-minister. He followed Xi from Fujian to Zhejiang. * Li Hongzhong, 61, is party secretary of the northern portcity of Tianjin. He never worked under Xi previously, but hasbeen an ardent supporter of Xi's policies. * Li Qiang, 58, a native of Zhejiang, is currently partyboss of the eastern coastal province of Jiangsu. Li was Xi'sright-hand man when Xi was party boss of Zhejiang. * Li Xi, 60, currently party chief of the northeasternprovince of Liaoning, is seen to be in line for promotion tohead a bigger province. He once worked in Xi's home province,Shaanxi, in China's northwest. * Liu He, 65, is Xi's key economic advisor and a strongcandidate to become a state councilor or vice premier. Whenthen-U.S. National Security Adviser Tom Donilon visited Beijingin 2013, Xi introduced Liu as "very important to me", accordingto the Wall Street Journal. Liu holds a master's degree inpublic administration from Harvard University's Kennedy Schoolof Government. * Ma Xingrui, 57, was once the chief engineer of China'slunar program. Now the governor of Guangdong province, he is oneof two candidates for party secretary, the top post, in thebooming southern region. If successful, he would be assured of aPolitburo seat. * Wang Xiaohong, 60, is a candidate to lead either thepolice or the national security apparatus. He is currently avice minister of public security and a vice mayor of Beijing.Wang cut his teeth in his home province Fujian, overlapping withXi. * Xia Baolong, 64, once touted to take over as securitytsar, stepped down as party boss of Zhejiang province in April.In a surprise move, he was sidelined to the No 2 position inparliament’s environmental protection and resources conservationcommittee, which may hurt his chances to join the Politburo.Xia, who ordered the tearing down of hundreds of church crossesin Wenzhou city in 2015, was Xi's deputy in Zhejiang. * Ying Yong, 59, a native of Zhejiang, is currently mayor ofShanghai and a candidate to become party boss of the country’sfinancial capital. He worked under Xi in Zhejiang as deputypolice chief, the No 2 corruption watchdog and an appeals courtacting chief judge. * You Quan, 63, has been the Communist Party secretary ofcoastal Fujian province since December 2012. A native of Hebeiprovince with a background in economics, he is a former chairmanof the State Electricity Regulatory Commission.
(Reporting by Benjamin Kang Lim and Philip Wen; Editing by Tony Munroe)