China’s Xi looking to extend his tenure beyond two terms?

China's President Xi Jinping. (Photo courtesy: Reuters)
China’s President Xi Jinping. (Photo courtesy: Reuters)

(, Oct07, 2016) – Is China’s new strongman Xi Jinping strong enough to defy the rules set by the last strongman Deng Xiaoping that the country’s top leader serve for no more than two successive five-yearly terms?

According to a commentary by Chris Buckley in The New York Times Oct 4, Xi appeared prepared to defy the Communist Party’s established script for transferring power and delay the designation of his successor until after a party congress next year, unsettling the party elite and stirring speculation that he wanted to prolong his tenure beyond the usual two terms.

The commentary cited experts and political insiders as saying the delay would buy Xi more time to promote and test favored candidates, and prevent his influence from ebbing away to a leader-in-waiting.

Xi’s decision will not be known until the late 2017 party congress. However, the suggestion that he intends to break with precedent and begin his second term without a probable successor is seen to raise questions about the fate of premier Li Keqiang.

Xi is said to want to shunt Li into a lesser job, replacing him with Wang Qishan, the powerful head of the party’s anti-corruption agency and a longtime friend, by raising the retirement age for the seven-member Standing Committee.

Wang will be 69 by the time of the next congress and changing the retirement age for political expediency is not unheard of. It was 70 before Jiang Zemin lowered it to 68 so he could force out a political rival in 2002, the commentary noted.

Buckley cites four unnamed party insiders close to senior officials and their families as saying Xi appeared likely to delay picking a successor. He has added that when and how his heir is chosen, and who is picked, will offer a measure of how much further Xi can bend the party’s ideas of collective rule that evolved after the upheavals of Mao Zedong’s last years.


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