China to hold key Party Congress on October 16

It is expected to mark the beginning of a third term for President Xi Jinping

Updated - August 30, 2022 09:39 pm IST

Published - August 30, 2022 09:38 pm IST - Beijing

A file photo of the 19th Party Congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.

A file photo of the 19th Party Congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. | Photo Credit: AP

The ruling Communist Party of China (CPC) will convene a twice-a-decade national congress on October 16, its Politburo announced on Tuesday following a meeting in Beijing. The 20th Party Congress is expected to mark the beginning of an unprecedented third term for President Xi Jinping, who is also CPC General Secretary and Chairman of the Central Military Commission.

Mr. Xi has during a decade in office essentially disbanded the collective leadership system and rewritten the Constitution to end the 10-year term limit followed by two of his predecessors, establishing himself as arguably the party’s most powerful leader since Mao Zedong.

The outcomes of the 20th Party Congress, including the make-up of the next Politburo, will shed the clearest light yet on the extent of Mr. Xi’s influence, with many of the current members of the Politburo and Central Committee set to retire.

The Politburo statement indicated that Mr. Xi’s imprint is likely to shape party policies for the next five years and perhaps even longer. If, as expected, no clear heir apparent emerges in the Congress, it would suggest Mr. Xi will remain at the helm until at least 2032.

The statement said the current Politburo will convene its last plenary session — a once-a-year event that sets policies — on October 9 and would propose holding the once-in-five-year Congress on October 16 in Beijing. It name-checked several of Mr. Xi’s key campaigns, saying “all Party members and people from all ethnic groups across the country will be mobilised” and “push forward common prosperity for all, advancing the great new project of Party building, and promoting the building of a community with a shared future for mankind”.

The congress will “take stock of the Party’s work over the past five years”, the statement added, and reflect on its its “major achievements” with “Xi Jinping at its core in uniting and leading the whole Party”. The week-long event will also “thoroughly review the international and domestic situations” and choose a new Central Committee.

Xi’s power

The composition of the next Politburo Standing Committee in particular — the highest-ranking body — will be among the most closely followed outcomes, seen as a gauge of Mr. Xi’s power and influence. Among the seven current members, at least two are set to retire in keeping with the norm of officials aged 68 and over stepping down. The constitutional amendment essentially created an exception for Mr. Xi, who is 69, by removing the term-limit for the post of President.

Second-ranked leader Li Keqiang, 67, a protégé of former leader Hu Jintao, said in March he will retire as Premier, although he can remain on the top party body. The selection of the next Premier, who will succeed Mr. Li when his term ends following the annual meeting of the legislature in March 2023, will be another key measure of Mr. Xi’s power.

The announcement of the start of the congress on October 16, a month earlier than the congresses in 2002 and 2012, that brought Mr. Hu and Mr. Xi to power after tumultuous internal succession struggles, were held, was seen by some observers in Beijing as signalling that this year’s affair would be smooth, a suggestion that Mr. Xi, in all likelihood, has already had his way in both personnel appointments and in setting party policy for the next five years.

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