Chinese President Xi Jinping leaves the Communist Party convention as the undisputed leader


Expand this picture AFP via Getty Images, Wang Zhao

switch to caption AFP via Getty Images, Wang Zhao AFP via Getty Images, Wang Zhao TAIPEI — After winning a third term as party head, Chinese leader Xi Jinping has emerged from the twice-per-decade Communist Party conference stronger than ever. He has also eliminated all but the most steadfast of his loyalists.

On Sunday, Xi grinned as he led the newly elected members of the Politburo Standing Committee onto a platform in front of the media. This group of men sits at the highest level of authority in China. Long expected to maintain his position of authority, Xi’s ascendancy was crystal clear after the convention.

A Sign of Xi Jinping’s Power, ALLIES ARE AROUND HIM. The other six guys who serve on the Politburo Standing Committee are all regarded as close friends of Xi. They have demonstrated their loyalty by cooperating with him in various administrative departments.

The unbalanced slate, according to analysts, disrupts a long-standing pattern of balancing factions within the Communist Party’s ruling elite and emphasizes Xi’s enormous political might.

In order to make room for fresh faces, four former members of the Standing Committee retired. The typical retirement age of 68 had been met or exceeded by two. Two, though, had not, and their departure this weekend was unexpected.

Vice Premier Wang Yang and Premier Li Keqiang, who was ranked No. 2 in the party hierarchy, were expelled. Both are 67 years old and, according to previous unofficial party regulations, would have been qualified to continue.

Tsar of party ideology The 67-year-old Wang Huning kept his spot in the Standing Committee. Wang, a dependable aide to Xi, is credited with aiding in the formulation of Xi’s governing philosophy. Wang Yang and Wang Huning are unrelated to one another.

Li Qiang, who assumed the No. 2 position in the Standing Committee, received yet another significant promotion. When COVID locked down China’s most international metropolis in April and May, many believed Li, the party head of Shanghai, had no chance of being promoted. The state media, though, had backed it in a show of power.

When parliament convenes in March, Li is likely to take the reins as premier.
Expand this picture Images by Lintao Zhang/Getty

switch to caption Images by Lintao Zhang/Getty Images by Lintao Zhang/Getty According to Tony Saich, a specialist in Chinese politics at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, “if Li Qiang does become premier, which looks now certain, it obviously shows that allegiance is more essential than performance.”

It demonstrates the remarkable control that Xi Jinping has had over all of the congress’s proceedings, Saich remarked.

Last but not least, Vice Premier Hu Chunhua was demoted. Hu Chunhua was a two-time Politburo member and was formerly seen as a lock for the Standing Committee and even Xi’s successor. Hu rose to power in part thanks to the Communist Youth League, a patronage network that Xi has mostly destroyed. Hu lost his bid for reelection to the Politburo.

Analysts claim that while Xi may view the loyalist lineup as a victory for his goals, Beijing’s capacity to be more nimble and inventive in resolving difficult issues, like COVID-19 and the faltering economy, may be hampered.

A MODIFICATION TO THE PARTY CHARTER Xi’s power was also increased by changes made to the Communist Party charter’s language.
The “two establishes” and the “two safeguards,” two obscure but crucial political concepts, were introduced to the party constitution at the party congress.

The “two establishes” urge party members to view Xi as the “core” of the party and his political theory as a foundational principle of party control. Party members are obligated by the “two safeguards” to defend Xi’s position as the party’s core and its dominant position in Chinese politics.

Additionally, the congress established hostility to and dissuasion of anyone pursuing “Taiwan independence.”

Since 1949, when Nationalist Party troops fled to Taiwan after the Communist Party rose to power, Taiwan has operated independently. Beijing believes it should be “reunited” with the mainland, by force if necessary, as part of China.

Reunification is viewed as a crucial component of Xi’s larger plan to “rejuvenate” China and make it a powerful country. The fact that Taiwan is mentioned in the party constitution demonstrates how important it is.

In terms of success, XI KICKED THE CAN DOWN THE ROAD. Party congresses were opportunities to elevate younger leaders for potential succession planning while Xi’s recent predecessors were in command. Xi himself ascended using this route.

But he has avoided the custom. Xi, 69, did not choose a successor in 2017 and did not do so again at the party congress. He has also given few hints as to his intentions for ultimate succession. In five or ten years, none of the new members of the Politburo Standing Committee will be viewed as Xi’s actual heirs.

Even a cursory look at the Politburo, according to Saich, “clearly doesn’t seem to imply a person who’s there to be a successor.” So it is evident that Xi wants to govern. He wants to be the dominant figure. Additionally, it postpones any succession issue into the unknowable future. And that, in my opinion, can be unstable.

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