China: Xi Jinping becomes the first president to be re-elected for a third term

Steph Deschamps / October 23, 2022

Chinese President Xi Jinping was reappointed Sunday as head of the Communist Party and then the country’s military. After having swept away any challenge, he becomes the most powerful Chinese leader since Mao Tse-tung, founder of the regime.

 

And that’s three! Xi Jinping was nominated for a third five-year term as General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party at the CCP Central Committee meeting, where all opposition was swept aside. He is expected to be officially confirmed as President of the country in March 2023.

 

In a decade at the helm, Xi Jinping has turned China into the world’s second largest economy, with one of the world’s most powerful armies. Despite an almost total concentration of power, he will still have to deal with an economy in sharp decline, notably because of his “zero Covid” policy, an exacerbated rivalry with the United States and international criticism of human rights.

 

The 20th Party Congress closed on Saturday after a week of closed-door deliberations, with the renewal of 65 per cent of the members of the Central Committee, a sort of internal parliament of the party. During their first meeting on Sunday morning, the 205 members of this parliament – including only 11 women – appointed the 25 representatives of the Political Bureau, the decision-making body of the CCP, as well as its Standing Committee. This all-powerful body holds the real power in China.

 

As is customary, the members of the Standing Committee are announced in order of importance, the number one being the General Secretary, Xi Jinping. The number two or number three is expected to be the next Premier to succeed Li Keqiang. Among the names mentioned to replace him: the current vice Premier Hu Chunhua or Li Qiang, party leader in Shanghai, despite his chaotic management of the spring lockdown.

 

Four of the seven former members of the Standing Committee have bowed out, according to the list of “parliamentarians” published by the official New China Agency after the congress. they are current Premier Li Keqiang, China’s number three Li Zhanshu and Vice Premier Han Zheng. The most surprising name on the list is Wang Yang, chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, an assembly with no decision-making power and considered one of the most liberal voices in the party. He was one of the favourites for the post of Prime Minister.

 

In any case, the composition of the new Standing Committee, which is usually the subject of bitter negotiations behind the scenes during the congress, will confirm Xi Jinping’s control over the political formation, according to analysts. For Willy Lam, a CCP specialist at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, it is “an almost total victory for Xi Jinping” who will be able to place a majority of his supporters. “There will be an abnormally asymmetrical dominance of one faction: that of Xi Jinping. »

 

Far from appearing homogeneous, the CCP is internally divided and several rival currents coexist, according to sinologists. Until now, compromises have existed for the distribution of posts, of which Xi Jinping is an illustrious example. In 2012, the different factions of the CCP were unable to agree on their respective candidates and finally put a consensus candidate in power.

 

But Xi Jinping then surprised everyone by eliminating his rivals and gradually concentrating all the powers at the head of the party and of China, while conducting a severe crackdown on any dissent. To maintain himself in power, the strongman of Beijing obtained in 2018 to amend the Constitution that limited this position to two terms and a total duration of 10 years.

 

Party leader, head of the army, head of state … the leader pleaded for the continuity of his policies during the opening speech of the congress. The Chinese Communist Party reaffirmed on Saturday the “central role” of Xi Jinping.

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