Preponing CCP Congress, China’s Xi Jinping All Set To Grab An Unprecedented 3rd Term Of Presidency

Belying many wild rumors about his whereabouts after returning home after the SCO summit in Samarkand, Chinese President Xi Jinping was seen at the Great Hall of People on Friday evening.

The next morning Xi Jinping was leading the Martyrs’ Day grand and impressive ceremony in Beijing. Top officials and the military brass accompanied him. The Martyrs’ Day celebration was a splendid spectacle of serenity, discipline, and dedication befitting a respectful event.

The Communist Party of China is preparing for this month’s National Congress, which will decide on the unprecedented third term of President  Xi.

The gala’s twin functions coming days ahead of the National Congress could also be a show of solidarity as the entire top Chinese leadership was seen on the occasions.

Many former members of the Politburo, the Communist Party’s 25-strong decision-making body, also attended the Great Hall of the People function. However, the retired members were not to be seen among the gathering.

In his address in the Great Hall of the People, Premier Li Keqiang said the party’s National Congress comes at “a critical moment” with the country marching towards the second centenary goal of building a great modern socialist country. Without describing the contours of the “critical moment,” he referred to some of the major achievements of the past decade.

Notably, he hailed President Xi Jinping as “the core of the leadership” and reaffirmed government policy on Hong Kong and Taiwan.

Vice President Wang Qishan was not seen at the exhibition in Beijing celebrating the country’s achievements under Xi’s leadership. He was last seen in London at the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II. But he attended the Great Hall function.

The National Congress of the CPC is scheduled to begin its deliberations on October 16. The feedback from various sources is that Xi is set to get the third presidential term, and as the party chief, he will usher in a new leadership team.

The National Congress will assess the decade-long performance of the Xi administration in all aspects before deciding whether to recommend his third term as the President.

Although the top Chinese leadership has its norms of evaluating the incumbent government’s performance, from non-Chinese sources, there are not very encouraging signs that would make things smooth for President Xi to be cleared for the third term.

Xi Jinping – Leading From The Front

There is a mixed opinion among analysts about the achievements of the decade-long regime of President Xi. On the positive side, China’s economic growth and investments stand out conspicuously in some regions like Latin America, Middle Eastern, and African countries.

But on the negative side, we find her faced with severe problems from advanced economies like Japan, South Korea, the United States, and Australia.  

Xi Jinping China
File Image: Xi Jinping

Among much-debated subjects is China’s chaotic handling of Covid-19 in Wuhan in late 2019, which took the entire world in its grip, aggressive foreign policy, particularly concerning the Sino-Indian border in Ladakh, trade war with the US, and military build-up in the South China Sea.

The Pew Survey reported that the opinion of those in the US who had an unfavorable idea about China in 2020 was 79%, which jumped to 80% in 2022. In South Korea, 87% said they had no confidence in Xi to do the right thing in world affairs. In the UK, the opinion in 2014 was 44%, which jumped to 70% in 2022.

The overall shortfall in China’s performance has led specialists to conclude that China’s handling of world affairs is not a feather to embellish its crown.

China’s aggressive postures toward the smaller countries along the South China Sea rim, and frequent forays of her vessels in the waters of the Indian Ocean under the pretext of containing piracy, have led to an arms race in the region with new strategic alliances reshaping the nations. Quad is an example.

India, a partner in Quad, has launched its aircraft carrier and is now engaged in building its third aircraft carrier, 75% bigger in size than INS Vikrant launched recently.

As a consequence of rivalry for the domination of the Indian Ocean, China is strengthening its sub-continental proxy, namely Pakistan. Recently, Beijing handed over the largest and most modern warship to Pakistan. The two countries have agreed to bolster Pakistan’s Navy, which has already received China-made submarines.

20th National Congress Of CCP

The 20th National Congress of the CCP will begin its week-long deliberations on October 16. The 2,000 members of the body will meet to select the new faces for the party’s Central Committee.

From this Central Committee, a 25-member Politburo will be formed, which throws up a seven-member Politburo Standing Committee. This is the most powerful organ whose business is to select government office bearers.

Usually, the time for holding the National Congress meeting, which ultimately decides on leadership change, is the month of November. Much lobbying and canvassing occur on the eve of the session of Congress.

File: Xi Jinping with Joe Biden

Observers think that preponing the Congress to mid-October indicates that Xi is confident of a solid vote in favor of his extension. Lin Li, a Chinese political law expert at the University of Vienna, argues that if Xi were not confident of his third term, he would not have favored preponing of the Congress.

The announcement of a date for the Congress means that vital decisions have also been unanimously made, and formalities remain to be completed.

It has to be recalled that the state-run China Daily commented in its issue of August 30 that “the Congress will focus on the CCP’s work over the past five years, major achievements, and valuable experiences of the party’s Central Committee with Xi Jinping at the core.

This is precisely the phraseology used by Premier Li Keqiang. By removing the limit for the presidential term in 2018, Xi concentrated his attention on grabbing the unprecedented third term in office. Two Presidents preceding him had both quit the post after completing two terms.

Following the standing rules, several members of the Politburo Standing Committee are expected to step down. The rules say that officials aged 68 and older will retire at the next Congress. Those aged 67 or younger can be promoted to remain in the top position. The retirement of several members opens space for pro-Xi candidates.

However, Ling Li from the University of Vienna wrote in a paper on ThinkChina that “the makeup of the CCP’s top leadership organ will be mostly based on the extent to which Xi Jinping is willing and able to break or change the age limit rule.”

Regardless of the extent to which the age limit is to be held, set aside, or changed, the new PSC needs to bring in one or two younger members who can continue to sit in the PSC in 2027 to allow staggered leadership transition then, she wrote.

Who could be the next Premier is also an important question. The criteria for choosing the next Premier is the prerogative of President Xi.

In March, the sitting premier Li Keqiang announced that he would step down in a year. But to help recover economic performance and reduce high youth unemployment, Li has become more active. Some circles think he may try to challenge Xi.

File Image: Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping during the latter’s visit to India, in October 2019. (via Twitter)

But it seems that the plea of Li may not succeed. China’s State Council handles economic and social issues, and Li’s role is normal.

Two names making rounds for the position of Premier are Vice Premier Hu Chunhua and Wang Yang, chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference National Committee, as the possible candidates.

Wang Yang has worked with Xi and won his confidence as well. He has been handling issues related to Taiwan, Xinjiang, and Tibet and stands a fair chance to become the next Premier.

In the final analysis, they are clear signs for Xi to grab the third term, which is very exceptional in the history of China.

Patricia Thornton, an associate Professor of Chinese at Oxford University, told an interviewer, “I don’t see anyone or anything emerging that could or would challenge Xi, either before or at the 20th party congress. And because those  moving up into the top positions will be Xi supporters, (it will bar) an unforeseen crisis event.”

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