Liu Yunshan

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Liu Yunshan
First Secretary of the Secretariat of the Chinese Communist Party
In office
15 November 2012 – 25 October 2017
General SecretaryXi Jinping
Preceded byXi Jinping
Succeeded byWang Huning
President of the Central Party School
In office
15 January 2013 – 25 October 2017
DeputyHe Yiting
Preceded byXi Jinping
Succeeded byChen Xi
Chairman of the Central Guidance Commission on Building Spiritual Civilization
In office
18 January 2013 – 25 October 2017
DeputyLiu Yandong
Liu Qibao
Guo Jinlong
Preceded byLi Changchun
Succeeded byWang Huning
Head of the Publicity Department of the Chinese Communist Party
In office
24 October 2002 – 21 November 2012
DeputyJi Bingxuan (2003–2008)
Luo Shugang (2008–2012)
General SecretaryHu Jintao
Preceded byDing Guangen
Succeeded byLiu Qibao
Personal details
BornJuly 1947 (age 75)
Salaqi County, Suiyuan, Republic of China
Political partyChinese Communist Party (1971–)
Alma materJining Teachers College

Liu Yunshan (/lj jʊnˈʃɑːn/;[1] simplified Chinese: 刘云山; traditional Chinese: 劉雲山; pinyin: Liú Yúnshān; born July 1947) is a retired Chinese politician. He was a member of the Politburo Standing Committee of the Chinese Communist Party, the top decision-making body of the CCP, between 2012 and 2017; he was broadly tasked with the work of the party's secretariat, overseeing propaganda and ideological indoctrination, as well as party organization, in addition to serving as President of the Central Party School.[2]

Liu built his career in Inner Mongolia, working initially as a teacher, then a Xinhua reporter, before entering the Communist Youth League and the Inner Mongolia party propaganda department. He had a short stint working as the Party Secretary of the city of Chifeng, in Inner Mongolia. Between 2002 and 2012, Liu served as the head of the Central Propaganda Department.

Liu, generally perceived by observers to be a conservative and orthodox Communist, oversaw the gradual tightening of internet controls in China during his tenure, as well as an overall reduction in free discourse and civil society. He retired in 2017.

Early life[edit]

Liu was born to an ordinary family of farmers in Tumed Qi in Inner Mongolia; he traces his ancestry to Xinzhou, Shanxi province.[3] He spent over twenty years of his career in Inner Mongolia. He joined the Communist Party in 1971. He initially worked as a teacher, then was "sent down" to do manual labour in the countryside as part of the Cultural Revolution.

He attended college part-time at the Teachers College in Jining District, Ulanqab City, Inner Mongolia. He then worked in the local government's public relation department of Tumed Qi. He started working as a reporter for Xinhua News Agency in 1975, writing stories about farmers' nomadic lifestyle in Inner Mongolia and occasionally sleeping in yurts to get close to the people that were part of his story.[3] He was eventually promoted to a supervisory role. He then worked for the provincial Communist Youth League organization. In 1985, the 38-year old Liu earned an alternate seat on the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party. In 1986, Liu became the Inner Mongolia State Government's director of public relation in 1986, and by 1987, the Secretary-General of the Inner Mongolia Party committee, a position in charge of coordination the execution of political policies.[4]

Between 1989 and 1992, Liu attended the Central Party School to take courses in public administration. In 1991, he became Party Secretary of the eastern Inner Mongolian city of Chifeng while also holding a seat on the Autonomous Region's Party Standing Committee, making him one of the most powerful officials in Inner Mongolia at the time. Between 1993 and 2002, he worked in Beijing as the deputy head of the Central Public Relation Department as a deputy to Ding Guangen.[4]

Politburo career[edit]

In 2002, at the 16th Party Congress, Liu became the head of the Central Propaganda Department. Although he also gained a seat on the Politburo at the same time, the overall direction of ideology and propaganda work was 'supervised' by Standing Committee member Li Changchun; thus Liu was, for all intents and purposes, not the top propaganda official in China at the time. Liu also became a Secretary of the Secretariat. He was also a member of the 17th Politburo of the Chinese Communist Party.

During the global financial crisis, Liu touted the Chinese success in responding to the crisis in contrast to Western political gridlock and stated, "Chinese-style socialism has exhibited nonpareil superiority and the China model has demonstrated strong vigor and energy."[5]

After the 18th Party Congress in November 2012, Liu was elected to both the 18th Politburo and its Standing Committee. Liu accumulated a number of high-level positions in addition to his role of overseeing propaganda, including the First Secretary of the Secretariat, which was formerly held by Xi Jinping, who became General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party, i.e., party leader. Liu, considered a censorship hard-liner, was seen as a staunchly conservative member of the Standing Committee who religiously upheld party orthodoxy.[6] Previously, the top position of the Secretariat and the leading post for propaganda were held by separate people.[N 1]

Several theories had been proposed for Liu's elevation to the Standing Committee. His two-term tenure was often cited as a primary factor. China analyst Cheng Li said that Liu was elevated due to the patronage of former leader Jiang Zemin.[7] Others suggest that Liu was a balancing force in that he had both Communist Youth League experience and loyally upheld party orthodoxy as a conservative.[8] That Liu Yunshan effectively succeeded in the portfolios held by two individuals prior to the Congress was arguably an indication of the breadth of his power. However, unlike his predecessors Xi Jinping and Zeng Qinghong, Liu did not take on the office of Vice President as was customary for the two previous first-ranked Secretaries of the Secretariat, which went to Li Yuanchao.[8] In 2013, Liu was named one of three deputy leaders of the Central Leading Group for Comprehensively Deepening Reforms.

Standing Committee member[edit]

Following the 18th Party Congress, Liu also emerged as the main official in charge of party organization and personnel, as well as the leading official in charge of propagating the so-called "mass line" education in the party as well as "party building". During the Xi Jinping Administration's crackdown on corruption, which began in 2013, Liu acted as the top official attending the leadership transition meeting in the aftermath of the political 'earthquake' in Shanxi province which saw the removal of a large number of top provincial leaders. That a Standing Committee member attended the 'transition meeting' was regarded as extremely unusual, as generally the central authorities in Beijing would dispatch the head of the Organization Department to such an event.[9]

In May 2015, Liu penned an article on Study Times in which he criticized that political culture in the Communist Party must not become too "lax and flexible" and that party members must resolutely follow party rules. Some commentators saw the remarks as implicitly critical of star television host Bi Fujian, who made some comments critical of Mao which surfaced on an online video.[10]

Liu led the Chinese delegation on a visit to North Korea in 2015, and met with Workers' Party first secretary Kim Jong-un, becoming the first Politburo Standing Committee heavyweight to meet with the young North Korean leader. Liu delivered a personal letter from Communist Party general secretary Xi Jinping to Kim Jong-un. Liu and Kim embraced in front of cameras in a show of camaraderie. Liu also accompanied the North Korean leader in watching the military parade marking the 70th Anniversary of the founding of the Workers' Party of Korea.[11] Perhaps due to his wide influence over the portfolios of propaganda and ideology, Liu has played a somewhat unusual role in representing the Chinese leadership in meetings with global technology companies. Liu met with Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg in March 2016,[12] and Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella in November 2016.[13]

Liu retired at the 19th Party Congress in 2017.


Liu Yunshan has been subject to criticism by the writer Tie Liu, whose work has been published by the Independent Chinese PEN Center. In an essay entitled We must Account for Liu Yunshan's Crimes Against Reform, Tie Liu wrote, "Liu Yunshan was the mastermind behind the corruption of China's media organs. He is the arch-nemesis of the path to reform in China, and the biggest opponent of the administration of Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang." Tie Liu also alleged that Liu Yunshan was "morally depraved", and was a supporter of the "Bo Xilai-Zhou Yongkang clique", alluding to Liu as one of China's foremost leftists ("leftists" can also be understood as "Maoists"). Tie Liu also wrote, "for over a decade, with publishing and television all under Liu Yunshan's control, there hasn't been a single newspaper reporting the truth, not a single book that could stand on its feet, and not a single good movie or television series."[14] In the same essay, Tie Liu voiced support for other leaders, such as Xi Jinping, Li Keqiang, and Wang Qishan.[15]


Liu is married to Li Sufang (李素芳), who worked at the Civil Aviation Administration of China. Liu and his wife had two sons, Liu Lefei (刘乐飞) and Liu Leting (刘乐亭). Liu Lefei was, as of 2014, the vice-chairman of CITIC Securities.[16] According to the New York Times, Deutsche Bank offered a job to one of Liu's sons despite the fact that the son "cannot meet our standard" in an effort to hire princelings to gain connections.[17]

His son and daughter-in-law have been named in association with the Panama Papers.[18]


  1. ^ At the 16th Party Congress in 2002, Zeng Qinghong held the first-ranked Secretariat position, while Li Changchun was the propaganda chief; at the 17th Party Congress in 2007, Li retained his position, but Xi Jinping became first-ranked Secretary of the Secretariat.


  1. ^ "How to Say: Chinese leaders' names". Magazine Monitor. BBC. 15 November 2012. Retrieved 23 June 2018.
  2. ^ "Liu Yunshan sworn in as president of Central Party School". Want China Times. 16 January 2013. Archived from the original on 10 November 2014. Retrieved 19 January 2013.
  3. ^ a b ""接地气才能有底气"——记中共中央政治局常委刘云山". Xinhua. December 25, 2012.
  4. ^ a b Li, Cheng (October 2012). "China's Top Future Leaders to Watch: Biographical Sketches of Possible Members of the Post-2012 Politburo (Part 2)" (PDF).
  5. ^ Zhao, Suisheng (2023). The dragon roars back : transformational leaders and dynamics of Chinese foreign policy. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press. p. 80. ISBN 978-1-5036-3088-8. OCLC 1331741429.
  6. ^ "Xi questions propaganda chief's handling of censorship row". Asashi Shimbun. 14 January 2013. Archived from the original on 1 February 2014. Retrieved 18 January 2014.
  7. ^ Li, Cheng (November 16, 2012). "Shadow of former president looms over China's new leaders". CNN.
  8. ^ a b Gao, Xin (May 13, 2014). "习近平为何会对刘云山礼让三分(高新)". Radio Free Asia.
  9. ^ Cheng, Yi (September 1, 2014). "常委刘云山坐镇山西换帅 高规格交接藏玄机". Duowei News.
  10. ^ "炮打毕福剑 刘云山发威". May 18, 2015.
  11. ^ "Message From China's Leader, Xi Jinping, to North Korea May Signal Thaw". October 10, 2015.
  12. ^ 刘云山晤扎克伯格 脸书进中国没戏
  13. ^ Senior CPC official meets Microsoft CEO
  14. ^ Original in Chinese written by Tie Liu read: 近十多年来中国新闻出版与电视在刘云山控管与操纵下,沒有一张说实話言真相的报纸,也沒有一本立得住足的好书,更没有一部好电影好电视剧。
  15. ^ "81岁高龄右派作家铁流昨日被捕 因痛斥刘云山文章惹祸". Independent Chinese PEN Center. August 28, 2014. Archived from the original on September 15, 2014.
  16. ^ "现任常委中最腐败,刘云山家族贪腐大起底". Boxun. May 7, 2014.
  17. ^ Forsythe, Michael; Enrich, David; Stevenson, Alexandra (2019-10-14). "Inside a Brazen Scheme to Woo China: Gifts, Golf and a $4,254 Wine". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2020-08-30.
  18. ^ Schmitz, Rob (April 4, 2016). "Xi Jinping's family linked to Panama Papers". Marketplace.

External links[edit]

Party political offices
Preceded by First Secretary of the Secretariat of the Chinese Communist Party
Succeeded by
Leader of the Central Leading Group for Party Building
Preceded by Chairman of the CCP Central Guidance Commission for Building Spiritual Civilization
Leader of the Central Leading Group for Propaganda and Ideological Work
Preceded by Head of the Propaganda Department of the Chinese Communist Party
Succeeded by
Academic offices
Preceded by President of the Central Party School
Succeeded by