China's Top Graft-Buster May Become Vice President, Post Says

(Bloomberg) -- China’s outgoing anti-corruption graft chief is expected to be named vice president next year, the South China Morning Post reported, giving him a perch to continue influencing policy. 

The move would allow Wang Qishan, 69, to formally serve as President Xi Jinping’s emissary despite retiring from the Communist Party’s top political body in October, the Hong Kong-based newspaper said Friday, citing several people it didn’t identify. The one-time state-run bank executive has continued to attend meetings of the supreme leadership body, the Politburo Standing Committee, the paper said. 

The party’s Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, which Wang has led since 2012, didn’t answer a call to its Beijing headquarters after normal business hours Friday.

While China’s vice presidency has at times been occupied by presidents-in-waiting and is legally second-in-line to the top job, the post is largely ceremonial. The current vice president, Li Yuanchao, 67, is expected to step down next year after losing his seat on the broader Politburo during the October reshuffle.

Xi elevated no obvious successors during the recent party congress, which also saw Wang retire from the all-powerful Standing Committee in line with past retirement conventions. Appointing Wang to the vice presidency would let Xi retain a key ally with legal authority to act in his stead.

Wang, who has known Xi since their days toiling in the countryside during Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution, has overseen the president’s signature campaign against corruption for the past five years. The unprecedented crackdown has swept up more than 1.5 million officials, including the country’s former security chief and retired top general.

Wang’s continued presence might also reassure investors, since he’s among China’s best-known economic reformers. He helped set up China’s first investment bank with Morgan Stanley in the 1990s and also established enduring ties with prominent Wall Street figures such as Hank Paulson.

The anti-graft chief has recently played a more diplomatic role, receiving foreign dignitaries in Beijing. On Sept. 20, he met with visiting Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his wife. A week later, he met with Steve Bannon, the Breitbart News Network chief and former senior adviser to U.S. President Donald Trump.

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