It is not an easy matter to understand Chinese official media reports, yet the Chinese populace has, over the years, learned how to predict upcoming changes in the political landscape by reading between the lines. These indications include the frequencies of a leader’s media appearance, the page on which a report appears (whether it’s front-page headline news), font size, picture size, article length, whether or not the name is mentioned in official news or documents, TV news report length, the change of wording in supplemental notices, adjectives used to describe a leader, and so on, to mention just a few. One notable indication is the name ordering of leaders. Below is an unabridged translation of the Chinese Leaders’ Name Order Study originally published on the news website, Boxun.com. 
When Chinese leaders attend public events, sometimes the list of names put out by the official Xinhua News Agency is longer than the news content itself. Although it annoys overseas media and populace, for the local Chinese media and populace who know the secret, they are the delight of talks. From it, one can predict the change of the status of a leader.
Li Keqiang Placed After Xi Jinping
During the Culture Revolution, people’s study of the name ordering of Party and national leaders reached a peak. A person’s name suddenly missing implies that he has been overthrown. A person’s name suddenly advancing in the ordering means he was promoted. This kind of ordering convention is in use today. Every major media has an ordered referential list of leaders’ names, and every provincial-level media also has an ordered referential list of provincial leaders. However, there are still times when editors and reporters misplace a leader’s name out of negligence. They are penalized.
Last October, the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) 17th Congress selected a new leadership group. The ordering of Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang, new standing committee members of the Politburo, confirmed that “group faction” favorite Li Keqiang was no match for the “Crown Prince Party” Xi Jinping. It is believed that they will be the respective successors of Party General Secretary Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao.
Because Vice President Zeng Qinghong, Vice Premiers Wu Yi and Zeng Peiyan, and so on resigned their Party posts, and new successors have to wait for their confirmation during next month’s National People’s Congress (NPC) and the Political Consultative Conference, the present name ordering of Party and national leaders has now become most complex. The author, through a Baidu (a popular Chinese search engine) search, found only one complete list of 219 incumbent and retired officials published by official media since the beginning of the year. It appeared in an obituary of Zhang Lichang, former secretary of Tianjin Municipal Committee of the CCP, as a list of leaders expressing their mourning and saluting [his] family members.
Jiang Zemin Ranks Second, Respected by Hu and Wen
From this list, the order of leaders are as follows: members of the Standing Committee of Politburo, members of the Politburo of the CCP Central Committee, retired members of the Standing Committee of the Politburo, members of the Secretariat of the CCP Central Committee, vice chairman of the NPC, state councilor, president of the Supreme People’s Court, procurator-general of the Supreme People’s Procuratorate, vice chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), retired members of the Politburo and the like, members of the Central Military Commission, and retired members of the Central Military Commission.
At the present, because the change of new and old leaders has not been completed, there are some exceptions to the rule. The first eleven rankings are Hu Jintao, Jiang Zemin, Wu Bangguo, Wen Jiabao, Jia Qinglin, Zeng Qinghong, Li Changchun, Xi Jinping, Li Keqiang, He Guoqiang, and Zhou Yongkang. Jiang Zemin continues to place second, indicating that Hu and Wen respect him. Zeng Qinghong places sixth; Wu Yi and Zeng Peiyan rank among the other members of the Politburo members, [and are] still integrated into the sequence of incumbent leaders.
It should be pointed out that although the appointment of the CPPCC vice premier needs confirmation from the NPC, because the vice premier is concurrently a member of the Politburo, his rank surpasses that of the NPC vice chairman. This also shows NPC’s rubber stamp status from another angle.
 Boxun News, February 28, 2008