China’s Communist Party (CPC) will unveil its new leadership for the next five years on October 23, when General Secretary and President Xi Jinping is set to begin an unprecedented third term.
Mr. Xi will open a week-long national congress, which convenes every five years, in Beijing on Sunday morning, where he will deliver a speech to 2,296 party delegates outlining the broad direction of the country’s policies for the next five years.
Sun Yeli, spokesperson for the party’s 20th national congress, told reporters on Saturday the event will conclude on October 22, by when it would have approved an amendment to the party Constitution and chosen the next Central Committee, which is likely to have around 370 members. As per past practice, the new 25-member Politburo and 7-member Politburo Standing Committee (PBSC) will be unveiled on October 23, following the first sitting of the new Central Committee.
The constitutional amendment as well as the line-up of next leaders who will join Mr. Xi on the PBSC are expected to reflect Mr. Xi’s continuing control over the party and what the CPC calls his “core” status.
Mr. Sun on Saturday mounted a defence of the party’s record in the past decade, including Mr. Xi’s stringent “zero-COVID” regime that saw China’s growth plummet to 0.4% in the second quarter.
The party has highlighted the COVID-19 policies, its declaration of the elimination of extreme poverty last year, and the anti-corruption campaign as among Mr. Xi’s legacies. Mr. Sun noted that 4.4 million people had been investigated for corruption in the past decade under Mr. Xi.
Suggesting the zero-COVID policy would continue, he said the measures were “most cost-effective and have worked the best for the country” and were “adopted in light of China’s national realities” including a large elderly population.
The constitutional amendment, he said, would “enshrine the new ideas, thoughts and strategies on national governance”.
The party constitution was amended in 2017 to include Mr. Xi’s ideology, called “Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era”. Mr. Xi is the first leader since Mao to have an eponymous ideology – his was called “Mao Zedong Thought” - enshrined in the party charter while in office.
Observers have suggested the amendment could similarly shorten his ideology to “Xi Jinping Thought”, implicitly establishing Mr. Xi on a par with Mao, thereby ensuring his continued and unquestioned political dominance for the next five years, and possibly beyond.