China's Communist Party endorses President Xi Jinping's 'core position'

Party amends constitution to enshrine Xi at its core and his political thought as its underpinning ideology: Xi says ‘struggle and win’ as Congress ends: PM Li Keqiang dropped in shuffle: Former leader Hu Jintao escorted out of the meeting

By: News Desk
Published: 11:56 AM, 22 Oct, 2022
China's Communist Party endorses President Xi Jinping's 'core position'
Caption: China's President Xi Jinping attends the closing ceremony of the 20th Communist Party's Congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.–AFP
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China's Communist Party on Saturday endorsed Xi Jinping's "core position" among its leadership, as the country's president concluded a five-yearly congress that is now almost certain to bring him a norm-busting third term in power.

All party members will be obliged to "uphold Comrade Xi Jinping's core position on the Party Central Committee and in the Party as a whole", according to a unanimously passed resolution on changes to the party charter.

China’s president, Xi Jinping, has strengthened his power as leader and elevated his status within Communist party history, with major political resolutions announced on the final day of a key political meeting.

On Saturday the Communist party (CCP) congress approved amendments to its constitution, including the so-called “Two Establishes” and “Two Safeguards”, aimed at enshrining Xi as being at the core of the party and his political thought as its underpinning ideology.

Xi began his closing speech around midday, as party officials announced the confirmation of the amendments, which all but confirmed that Xi will remain in power for another term. Xi, 69, is widely expected to be reaffirmed this weekend as the party’s general secretary, paving the way for him to gain a norm-breaking third term as Chinese president.

The week-long conclave sees thousands of CCP delegates, ostensibly representing the hundreds of millions of party members, meet in Beijing. The purpose is largely to

see reshuffles of senior party positions and constitutional changes likely decided on long before the meeting began. The meeting is highly choreographed and mostly behind closed doors. However, shortly before Xi’s speech began, former leader Hu Jintao was escorted out of the room, without explanation.

Since coming to power in 2012, Xi has further consolidated his individual power, including spearheading the elimination of term limits in 2018. Prior to those changes, Xi would have been stepping down as leader this week, but instead has the potential to be leader for life.

Analysts are watching this weekend’s events keenly, to see if Xi is also formally given the title of “People’s Leader”, an honorific not officially used since Mao Zedong.

On Saturday delegates also voted to endorse Xi’s “work report” delivered at the Congress’ opening last Sunday, which passed assessment on the previous term and outlined the direction of the new one.

At its conclusion the Congress also confirmed the “re-election” of the 200 elite central committee members, who have voting rights within the party. That committee is responsible for electing the 25-member politburo, of which the seven most powerful are appointed to the politburo standing committee (PSC). The line-up of the PSC, including the number one-ranked general secretary, will be revealed on Sunday.

The revelation, usually by the PSC members filing out on stage in order of rank, will be the official confirmation of Xi’s retention of the general secretary position.

Xi delivers speech

Xi delivered a speech starting about midday (0400 GMT) in one of the final events of the week-long gathering at Beijing's Great Hall of the People.

"Dare to struggle, dare to win, bury your heads and work hard. Be determined to keep forging ahead," he told the party faithful.

His speech ended a week of largely rubber-stamp meetings among 2,300 party delegates, who were selected by the party to approve a reshuffle of its leadership.

However in an unexpected move at such a heavily choreographed event, former leader Hu Jintao was led out of the closing ceremony. No official explanation was given.

The new Central Committee of around 200 senior Party officials was elected shortly after 11 am Saturday, state media agency Xinhua reported, without disclosing a full list of members.

Delegates also voted to endorse Xi's "work report" delivered at the Congress's opening last Sunday and rubber-stamped a resolution on the Party's constitution.

Xi is now widely expected to be unveiled as general secretary on Sunday, shortly after the first meeting of the new Central Committee.

This will allow Xi to sail through to a third term as China's president, due to be announced during the government's annual legislative sessions in March.

Xi previously abolished the presidential two-term limit in 2018, paving the way for him to rule indefinitely.

The weekend will also see the new Central Committee approve a reshuffled 25-member Politburo, as well as a Politburo Standing Committee -- China's apex of power -- of around seven people, which analysts expect to be stacked with Xi allies.

At Sunday's Congress opening ceremony, Xi delivered a 105-minute speech lauding the party's achievements and glossing over domestic problems such as the stalling economy and the damage wrought by his harsh zero-Covid policy.

Heavy on ideological rhetoric and light on policy, a defiant Xi also urged Communist Party members to steel themselves against numerous challenges including a hardening geopolitical climate.

"We must... be ready to withstand high winds, choppy waters and even dangerous storms," he said.

"Confronted with drastic changes in the international landscape, especially external attempts to blackmail, contain, (and) blockade... China, we have put our national interests first."

Security was also a main focus of the speech, in which Xi lauded Hong Kong's transition from "chaos to governance" and vowed to "never commit to abandoning the use of force" to seize the self-ruled island of Taiwan.

The Congress was set to further cement Xi's position as China's most powerful leader since Mao Zedong, with analysts predicting he was virtually certain to be reappointed for a third term in power.

Xi's work report "is a carefully scripted drama through which the power of the Party, its leader, and its ideas are meant to be elevated and amplified", wrote David Bandurski, editor of the University of Hong Kong's China Media Project.

But some key questions remain unresolved, including whether Xi, 69, will appoint a potential successor to the Politburo Standing Committee and whether a pithier form of his signature political philosophy will be enshrined in the charter of the 96-million-strong party.

The latter would make Xi Jinping Thought "the latest, 21st-century rendition of Marxism (and) the state ideology of China", said Steve Tsang, director of the SOAS China Institute at the University of London.

"Xi's power will be akin to that of the dictator of China, and there will be next to no scope for anyone to advise him to attempt course correction," Tsang told AFP.

"This will increase the risk of policy mistakes being made, as everything will depend on Xi getting it right."

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang exits leadership body

Premier Li Keqiang left his position in China’s top leadership body early as President Xi Jinping consolidated control over the world’s No. 2 economy.

Li, 67, wasn’t included in the Communist Party’s new 200-member Central Committee, a requirement for joining the more powerful Politburo and its supreme Standing Committee. That marks an end to Li’s decade as China’s No. 2 official, and a long career that at one point saw him in the running to lead the nation -- a role he lost to Xi. 

While Li announced earlier this year he’d step down as premier next March, in line with the position’s two-term limit, he was still young enough for a fourth stint on the seven-member Politburo Standing Committee. Xi, 69, tore up age norms governing retirement at the close of the party congress meeting in Beijing, breaking the de facto age cap of 68 en route to a precedent-breaking third term in office.

Contender for the premier role Wang Yang, 67, also exited early, clearing a path for Xi loyalists more compliant with his directives to take the role. Li, a trained economist, saw his push for more liberal policies in some sectors stymied as Xi increased the party’s role over the government in policy making -- a division the party had emphasized following Mao Zedong’s chaotic rule that ended with his death in 1976.

Li could be remembered as “one of the least powerful premiers in recent Chinese history,” said Chen Gang, assistant director of the East Asian Institute at the National University of Singapore.

 “While we seldom hear any criticism of him for any mistakes or errors, in China politics decides everything,” Chen said. “Li became the premier as Xi Jinping was consolidating his power. There was some conflict between party and the state.”

In China, the premier leads the State Council and co-ordinates all government ministries, while the president serves as head of state. Xi also heads the party and is commander-in-chief of the military.–Agencies

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