Chinese President Xi Jinping has defied his terms and stepped into a third term to rule China with an iron grip on power as he unveiled a new leadership team with loyal allies.
Sunday, a five-year anniversary Communist Party CongressXi announced six people – Li Qiang, Zhao Leji, Wang Huning, Cai Qi, Ding Xuxiang and Li Shi – Politburo Standing Committee MembersChina’s top governing body.
The line-up, filled with staunch Xi loyalists, made it clear that Xi wasn’t the only one breaking out The latest precedent is a third term at the helm of the party, but it has concentrated power at its peak to a degree not seen in decades.
Xi unveiled the full lineup of the 24-member Politburo, which for the first time in at least 25 years does not include women, underscoring the lack of female representation at the party’s top echelons.
The four new faces on the Politburo’s seven-member Standing Committee are all longtime allies and supporters of Xi: Li Qiang, Cai Qi, Ding Xuexiang and Li Xi. The new line-up clears the way for him to rule for a third term with minimal internal discord — and Xi’s affinity for China’s current political landscape underlines everything else.
The sweeping reshuffle of the standing committee came after the departure of key party leaders who were not in Xi’s inner circle — Premier Li Keqiang and Wang Yang, chairman of China’s top advisory council. Both retired from the party’s top governing body and are eligible for another term despite being a year short of the party’s unofficial retirement age of 68. Xi, at 69, is a year over that unofficial limit.
The announcements were made on Saturday, at the conclusion of the party congress. Events were briefly interrupted by someone An unexpected sight Xi’s immediate predecessor, Hu Jintao, who is 79 and has been in poor health in recent years, was not immediately visible when he was ushered out of the Great Hall from the seat next to Xi, but Hu was initially reluctant. to get out.
Notable for his absence from the new standing committee line-up announced on Sunday was Hu Chunhua, 59, the vice-premier seen most in the orbit of Li and the elder Hu.
Hu Chunhua was once touted as a candidate for the top leadership, but was not promoted from the Politburo to its Standing Committee at the party congress five years ago. This time, Hu has even stepped down from the new 24-member Politburo, a sign of his bleak political future — and Xi’s unrivaled power.
Xi has no clear successor. Pre-Xi era standing committee ranks include younger members as potential successors. But with the youngest member now 60, there’s no standout name in the mix — a possible sign that Xi isn’t planning to step down anytime soon.
Eliminating rivals and boosting allies creates an “unprecedented” situation for the governing body that will drive the world’s second-largest economy, says Chen Kang, a senior researcher at the National University of Singapore’s East Asia Institute.
“This new order is not the result of power-sharing or horse-trading between different factions, but basically it is the effect or outcome of Xi’s power,” Chen said.
“We have entered a new era because Xi now controls all aspects of policy-making and decision-making,” he said. “We’re seeing a kind of re-centralized bureaucracy in China that will certainly affect China’s future economic and foreign policy trajectory.”
Although the line-up was revealed on Sunday as the top echelon of the Communist Party, those chosen will fill top government posts as appointments are made in the coming months ahead of a key meeting of the country’s rubber-stamp legislature in March.
The new line-up means Xi will have greater control over all aspects of the Chinese government, including the economy, which has traditionally been the domain of the premier, who heads its State Council.
That post is now expected to fall into the hands of Shanghai Party chief Li Qiang, a Xi loyalist who has been appointed to the number-two role. In the party, despite a setback following a chaotic two-month Covid-19 lockdown in Shanghai earlier this year.
Li’s appointment is one of several “norm-breaking” elements of this year’s leadership reshuffle, according to Victor Shih, an expert on elite Chinese politics at the University of California San Diego, who noted that Li’s appointment would appoint a leader with no State Council. Experience that body head – something not seen for decades.
“The Chinese economy and the State Council are much more complex today compared to the 1980s. “That lack of experience is going to make the job of running China’s state machinery more challenging, at least initially,” said Shih, author of “Coalitions of the Weak,” a book on elite politics in China in recent decades.
Meanwhile, the concentration of power “introduces a certain unhealthy dynamic in policymaking in which those close to him, over the years, have developed the skills to always accept and support Xi Jinping’s opinion,” he said.
Other new members include Cai, 66, Beijing’s party boss and one of Xi’s most trusted confidantes; Li Xi, 66, the current party chief of Guangdong province, China’s southern economic engine, and a trusted Xi ally, who is expected to oversee the anti-corruption system; and Ding Xuxiang, 60, Xi’s chief of staff and close aide.
The new power dynamics herald a victory for Xi’s agenda on how to move China forward in the coming years.
“The headline story is clear – Xi Jinping and his team are consolidating their power, the question is to what end,” said David Goodman, director of the Center for China Studies at the University of Sydney.
He pointed to debates among leaders in recent years about how to advance economic growth, including China’s public and private sector and a discussion of immediate economic needs and “public prosperity” — a vision for narrowing China’s wealth gap.
“What I take away from this convention is general prosperity, which is now enshrined in the party’s constitution,” Goodman said.
In addition to Li and Wang’s departures, Hu Jintao’s pro-Communist Youth League faction is known for its pro-market stance, as are finance officials Liu He, Yi Gang and Guo Shuqing. – They are no longer part of the central group. The survival of Central Committee member Wang Yi (69) also indicates support for China’s aggressive foreign policy stance.
But even as Xi seizes power in an unprecedented manner, given domestic economic challenges and strained international relations, he will not necessarily navigate a smooth path forward. Opening address Party Congress last Sunday.
“Today the world is facing unprecedented challenges,” Xi told reporters after introducing his new leadership team on Sunday.
“On the road ahead, be it high winds, rough waters or dangerous storms, people will always be our strongest support and strongest hope,” he said.
A standing committee of loyalists could turn the top organization into “all Xi’s men’s team,” but that “doesn’t mean Xi will become an all-powerful supreme leader and can do anything. His unlimited power will be limited by his limited capacity and diminishing power as he ages,” said the U.S. said Yang Zhang, assistant professor at the university’s School of International Service.
Meanwhile, Xi’s own allies will split themselves into different factions vying for power, while Xi’s total control will mean his team is solely responsible for any policy missteps, he said, prompting a strong international backlash from the West, led by the United States.
“All these scenarios indicate that his third – and fourth – term may not be as easy as expected,” he said.
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