China will host the 20th Congress of the Communist Party on October 16

The Politburo announced on Tuesday the start date for the congress, which usually lasts about a week and takes place mostly behind closed doors in the Great Hall of the People on the west side of Tiananmen Square in downtown Beijing.

Xi, 69, has steadily consolidated power since becoming party general secretary a decade ago, eliminating any known factional opposition to his rule. He is expected to exercise unquestioning control over key appointments and policy directives in the Congress, which many China watchers liken to a coronation.

Despite the headwinds that have blocked his path to a third term — from a dying economy, the Covid-19 pandemic and occasional public protests to growing friction with the West and tensions over Taiwan — Xi is poised to receive a mandate to continue his great career. a vision of “rejuvenating the Chinese nation” for years to come.

Since coming to power, Xi, the son of a communist revolutionary, has strengthened the party and its role in society and eliminated the space for dissent.

Under Xi, China has also become much more assertive on the world stage as a leader in the developing world and an alternative to the US-led post-World War II order.

“It will lead China to an even more Sino-centric approach to politics, especially foreign policy,” said Steve Tsang, director of the University of London’s SOAS China Institute. “He will also stress the importance of the party leading everything in China and that the party follow its leader completely,” Tsang said.

Xi’s likely move to a third five-year term, and possibly more, was set in 2018 when he lifted the two-term limit on the presidency, a position due to be renewed at parliament’s annual meeting in March.

Key Personnel

The day after the 20th Party Congress, Xi is expected to again be appointed General Secretary of the Communist Party and Chairman of the Central Military Commission.

With little change expected in the broad political direction, the key outcomes of the Congress will be related to the staff – who will join Xi on the Politburo Standing Committee (PSC) and who will replace Premier Li Keqiang, who is due to step down in March.

Among the contenders for the post of prime minister in charge of managing the economy are Wang Yang, 67, who heads a key political advisory body, and Hu Chunhua, 59, a vice premier. Both were former leaders of the Communist Party of southern Guangdong.

Another candidate for prime minister is Chen Minyer, 61, a protégé of Xi who is party chief of the vast Chongqing municipality but has never held national office.

The composition and size of the next PSC, which now consists of seven people, will also be closely monitored.

The two current members have reached traditional retirement age, and China watchers will be looking to see if the inclusion of any new member reflects the need to accommodate alternative viewpoints, though under Xi, the notion of “factions” in Chinese politics appears to have largely become a holdover. .

“Once his supporters take leadership positions at this party convention, Xi will have more power to implement whatever policy he wants,” said Alfred Wu, assistant professor at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore. .

Beyond Congress

After the Congress, many in China and around the world will be watching Beijing’s efforts to stave off a protracted economic downturn, raising the chances of easing Covid containment despite the lack of widespread immunity among China’s 1.4 billion people and the lack of more effective mRNA. vaccines remain limitations.

Beijing’s strict “dynamic zero” policy on Covid has led to frequent and devastating lockdowns that have frustrated citizens, crippled its economy and made China a global exception.

Investors will also be watching how Beijing handles worsening relations with the West.

Xi’s stated desire to bring Taiwan under Beijing’s control will also be in the spotlight during his third term, especially as tensions escalate following US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s recent visit to Taipei. The democratically elected government of Taiwan strongly rejects China’s claim to sovereignty.
Since coming to power, Xi has crushed dissent in the once-troubled regions of Tibet and Xinjiang and brought Hong Kong under sweeping national security legislation.

Few China watchers expect Beijing to launch a military operation in Taiwan anytime soon, and there are few signs that society is preparing for such a risky move and the backlash it would elicit, such as tough Western sanctions.

But for Xi, successfully resolving the “Taiwan Question” would secure a place for him in Chinese history alongside Mao.

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