May 22, 2024, Wednesday
Nepal 1:37:26 pm

China’s Xi consolidates powers, promotes allies

The Nepal Weekly
October 24, 2022

President Xi Jinping, China’s most powerful leader in decades, consolidated his dominance when he was named Sunday to another term as head of the ruling Communist Party in a break with tradition and promoted allies who supported his vision of tighter control over society and the growing economy.

Xi, who assumed power in 2012, was awarded a third five-year term as general secretary, discarding a custom under which his predecessor abandoned power after 10 years. The 69-year-old leader is likely to stay in power for life.

The party also named a seven-member Standing Committee, its core circle of power, dominated by Xi allies after Premier Li Keqiang, the No. two leader and an advocate of market-economy and private enterprise, was dropped from the leadership Saturday. That was despite Li being a year younger than the party’s informal retirement age of 68.

“Power will be even more concentrated in the hands of Xi Jinping,” remarked Jean-Pierre Cabestan, a Chinese political expert at Hong Kong Baptist University. The new appointees are “all loyal to Xi,” he added. “There is no counterweight or checks and balances in the system at all.”

On Saturday, Xi’s predecessor, 79-year-old Hu Jintao, abruptly left a meeting of the party Central Committee with an aide holding his arm. That prompted questions about whether Xi was flexing his powers by expelling other leaders. The official Xinhua News Agency later reported Hu was in poor health and needed to rest.

Xi and other Standing Committee members, none of them women, appeared for the first time as a group before reporters Sunday in the Great Hall of the People, the seat of China’s ceremonial legislature in central Beijing.

The second in rank leader was Li Qiang, the Shanghai party secretary. That puts Li Qiang, who is no relation to Li Keqiang, in line to become premier, the top economic official. Zhao Leji, already a member, was promoted to No. 3, likely to head the legislature. Those posts are to be assigned when the legislature meets next year.

Leadership changes were announced as the party wrapped up a twice-a-decade congress that was closely watched for initiatives to reverse an economic slump or changes in a severe “zero-COVID” strategy that has shut down cities and disrupted business. Officials disappointed investors and the Chinese public by announcing no changes.

The lineup appeared to reflect what some commentators called “Maximum Xi,” valuing loyalty over ability. Some new leaders lack national-level experience as vice premier or Cabinet minister that typically is seen as a requirement for the post.

Li Qiang’s promotion appeared to confirm that because it puts him in line to be premier with no background in national government. Li Qiang is seen as close to Xi after they worked together in Zhejiang province in the southeast in the early 2000s.

Li Keqiang was sidelined over the past decade by Xi, who put himself in charge of policymaking bodies. Li was excluded Saturday from the list of the party’s new 205-member Central Committee, which elects the Standing Committee.