(TibetanReview.net, Oct23’22) – After dispatching his main rivals and critics to lengthy jail sentences, including suspended death sentences, under his signature anti-corruption campaign, Xi Jinping has now sidelined whatever remains of any possible obstacle to his unquestioned rule from the new leadership lineup that emerged from the week-long, 20th National Congress of the Communist party of China (CPC) which concluded on Oct 22.
With what appeared to be a humiliating, deliberately very public removal of his predecessor Hu Jintao from a Central Committee meeting on Oct 22, Xi Jinping has declared himself China’s top leader without being subject to any voice of dissent. And he has not only sidelined leaders deemed to belong to what is seen as the Hu Jintao faction but also stacked the party’s top echelons with people known to be close to him, including by ignoring well-established norms for continuance, promotion, or retirement of leaders that were diligently followed until his ascension to the top position.
After securing a precedent-breaking third five-year term as the General Secretary of the Central Committee of the CPC on Oct 23, Xi Jinping introduced a new seven-member Politburo Standing Committee stacked with loyalists, cementing his place as the country’s most powerful ruler since Mao Zedong.
Shanghai Communist Party chief Li Qiang, 63, followed Xi onto the stage at the Great Hall of the People as the new leadership team was introduced, meaning he is likely to succeed Li Keqiang as premier when he retires in Mar 2023. He had no central government experience, seen as a requirement for such a promotion before, but is seen as close to Xi, as the two had worked together in Zhejiang province in the southeast in the early 2000’s.
The other members of the seven-man Standing Committee, China’s top governing body, are Zhao Leji and Wang Huning, who return from the previous committee, and newcomers Cai Qi (the Beijing party secretary), Ding Xuexiang (regarded as Xi’s “alter ego” or chief of staff) and Li Xi (the party secretary of Guangdong province).
All have close allegiance to Xi, 69, who was also re-appointed on the same day as chairman of the Central Military Commission, noted Reuters Oct 23.
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On the other hand, reformist Premier Li Keqiang, seen to be Hu’s protégé and supposedly the No. 2 in the outgoing setup, was excluded Oct 22 from the list of the party’s new 205-member Central Committee, from which the Standing Committee is picked.
Another departure from the Standing Committee was Wang Yang, a reform advocate suggested by some as a possible premier. And Wang, 67, is below retirement age.
On the abrupt removal of Hu Jintao, sitting next to Xi Jinping, the official Xinhua News Agency claimed that he was in poor health and needed to rest.
But the video coverage of his removal, including the behavior of the leaders sitting near to him and the duo who came to escort him out, clearly seemed to show that it was taking place against his wish.
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“An abnormally lopsided victory for one faction, which is rare in the tradition of the Communist Party; in the past there would be a rough balance of power,” Willy Lam, senior fellow at US think tank the Jamestown Foundation, has said.
“It means there won’t be any checks and balances. Xi Jinping also has total control over the larger Politburo and Central Committee,” he has said.
“Power will be even more concentrated in the hands of Xi Jinping,” the AP Apr Oct 23, likewise, quoted Jean-Pierre Cabestan, a Chinese politics expert at Hong Kong Baptist University, as saying. The new appointees are “all loyal to Xi,” he has said. “There is no counterweight or checks and balances in the system at all.”
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, the report said.
The unveiling of the Standing Committee and the larger 24-member Politburo came a day after the closing of the ruling Communist Party’s 20th Congress, where amendments were added to the party charter aimed at cementing the core status of Xi and the guiding role of his political thought within the party.
Party plans call for creating a prosperous society by mid-century and restoring China to its historic role as a political, economic and cultural leader. For this purpose, Xi has called for the “great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation” and a revival of the party’s “original mission” as social, economic and culture leader in a throwback to what he sees as a golden age after it took power in 1949, noted the AP report.