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China's Xi Jinping expands powers, supports allies : NPR

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Chinese President Xi Jinping waved at the presentation of members of the new Politburo Standing Committee of the Communist Party of China, the country’s top decision-making body, in Beijing on Sunday.

Wang Zhao/AFP via Getty Images


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Chinese President Xi Jinping waved at the presentation of members of the new Politburo Standing Committee of the Communist Party of China, the country’s top decision-making body, in Beijing on Sunday.

Wang Zhao/AFP via Getty Images

BEIJING — Chinese leader Xi Jinping has emerged stronger than ever after being elected party boss for the third time from a twice-decade Communist Party convention and pushing all but his most loyal allies off the table.

On Sunday, Xi smiled as he led a group of newly elected men at the height of power in China – the Politburo Standing Committee – on a stage in front of the media. Xi had long been expected to cling to power, but congress consolidated his dominance with breathtaking clarity.

Xi Jinping surrounded by allies as a sign of his strength

All six others on the Politburo Standing Committee are considered close colleagues of Xi. They worked with him in different parts of the bureaucracy and proved their loyalty.

Analysts say the disproportionate cadre disrupts the Communist Party’s practice of balancing long-standing factions within its policy-making elite and underscores Xi’s sheer political power.

Four members of the previous Standing Committee retired to make room for new blood. Two had reached or passed the traditional retirement age of 68. But two of them did not arrive and it was a surprise that they broke up this weekend.

Prime Minister Li Keqiang, number 2 in the party hierarchy, and Vice Premier Wang Yang were dismissed. Both were 67 years old and would qualify to stay under previous unofficial party rules.

Again, 67-year-old party ideology czar Wang Huning continued to be a member of the Standing Committee. Wang is a trusted aide to Xi and is credited with helping to formulate Xi’s management philosophy. (Wang Huning and Wang Yang are not related.)

Another important promotion went to Li Qiang, who took the 2nd place on the Standing Committee. As Shanghai’s party boss, many thought Li’s chances of promotion were scuttled by the ill-planned and immensely unpopular COVID lockdown in April and May in China’s most cosmopolitan city. But the state media rallied behind him as a sign of support from above.

Li is poised to become prime minister when parliament meets in March.


(From left) Li Xi, Cai Qi, Zhao Leji, Xi Jinping, Li Qiang, Wang Huning and Ding Xuexiang, Beijing on Sunday 20th of the CCP. China’s ruling Communist Party announced today its new Politburo Standing Committee after its 20th congress.

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Lintao Zhang/Getty Images


(From left) Li Xi, Cai Qi, Zhao Leji, Xi Jinping, Li Qiang, Wang Huning and Ding Xuexiang, Beijing on Sunday 20th of the CCP. China’s ruling Communist Party announced today its new Politburo Standing Committee after its 20th congress.

Lintao Zhang/Getty Images

“If Li Qiang becomes the leader, which now seems certain, it clearly means that loyalty is more important than performance,” said Tony Saich, a specialist in Chinese politics at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Public Administration.

“This expresses the extraordinary dominance that Xi Jinping exercises over all proceedings in Congress,” Saich said.

In the end, Deputy Prime Minister Hu Chunhua, a two-time Politburo member and once seen as a candidate for the Standing Committee, and possibly even as Xi’s successor, was demoted. Hu climbed the political ladder, in part through a network of patronage – the Communist Youth League – that Xi had largely neutralized. Hu was not re-elected to the Politburo.

Party charter changed

Changes to the language in the Communist Party charter also increased Xi’s power.

The party congress added two secret but important political ideas to the party statutes: “two organizations” and “two guarantees”.

The “two organizations” urge party members to recognize Xi as the “core” of the party and consider his governing philosophy as one of the fundamental principles of party rule. The “two guards” require party members to maintain Xi’s core status and maintain the party’s leading role in politics in China.

Congress also blessed dissent and deterrence against anyone seeking “Taiwanese independence.”

Taiwan has been self-governing since 1949, when Nationalist Party troops fled there after the Communist Party came to power. Beijing considers it part of China to “reunite” it with the mainland by force if necessary.

“Reunification” is seen as an important part of Xi’s broader agenda to “revive” China and make it a strong nation. The inclusion of Taiwan in the party constitution highlights its importance.

Xi kicks the box in terms of succession

With Xi’s last predecessors in office, party conventions were an opportunity for young leaders to groom as eventual successors. Xi himself took this road to the top.

But he avoided the application. He did not appoint a successor in 2017, and again at this party congress, 69-year-old Xi dropped a few hints about his plans for an eventual successor. None of the new Politburo Standing Committee members is young enough to be considered Xi’s true successors five or 10 years from now.

“Even a brief glance at the Politburo…”So it’s clear that Xi intends to lead. He plans to direct as a key figure. And that pushes any succession issue into the unpredictable future. And to me that can be destabilizing.”

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