The big reveal: Xi set to introduce China’s next standing committee

BEIJING, Oct. 21 (Reuters) – Xi Jinping, on the verge of winning a third five-year term as China’s leader, will preside over the most dramatic moment of the biannual Communist Party Congress on Sunday, unveiling the members of his elite Politburo Standing Committee.

Xi’s break with the precedent of ruling for more than a decade was set in motion when he gave up presidential term limits in 2018. His norm-breaking as China’s most powerful ruler since Mao Zedong has made it even more difficult to predict who will join him on the standing committee.

The 69-year-old leader’s power appears undiminished by a sharp economic slowdown, frustration over his zero-COVID policy and China’s increasing alienation from the West, exacerbated by his support for Russia’s Vladimir Putin.

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The new leadership will be unveiled when Xi, who is widely expected to be renewed in China’s top post as the party’s general secretary, enters a room with journalists in Beijing’s Great Hall of the People, followed by the other members of the Standing Committee of the Party Politburo (PSC). in descending order.

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The lineup – who’s in, who’s not, and who will be revealed to succeed Premier Li Keqiang when he retires in March – will give party watchers speculation about how much Xi is consolidating power by appointing loyalists Has.

At the same time, some analysts and diplomats say the composition of the standing committee and the identity of the premier are less important than they used to be because Xi has moved away from a tradition of collective leadership.

“The new PSC lineup will tell us whether Xi only values ​​personal loyalty or whether he values ​​a certain diversity of opinion at the top,” said Ben Hillman, director of the Australian Center on China in the World at the Australian National University.

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“It is possible that the new PSC will consist entirely of Xi loyalists, which means the consolidation of Xi’s power but poses great risks for China. A group of yes-men at the top will limit the information available for decision-making.”

IN OR OUT?

At least two of the current seven members of the Standing Committee are expected to retire. Reports this week in the Wall Street Journal and South China Morning Post suggest there could be as many as four vacancies, with Premier Li, 67, possibly being among those stepping down.

As for the next premier, Wang Yang, 67, and Hu Chunhua, 59, a former and current vice premier respectively, are both considered by analysts to be well-qualified by traditional standards for a role charged with overseeing the economy. they lack long-term ties to Xi.

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Shanghai party leader Li Qiang, who has long-standing ties to Xi, is likely to join the PSC and is considered a leading contender for the premiership, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing unnamed sources close to the party leaders.

Li’s promotion to premier would be a strong sign of the importance of loyalty to Xi after Shanghai’s punitive and unpopular two-month COVID-10 lockdown this year, for which Li blamed local residents heavily.

Another loyalist considered a candidate for promotion by party observers is Ding Xuexiang, 60, Xi’s chief secretary and head of the Central Committee’s powerful General Office, which handles the top leadership’s administrative affairs.

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Reporting by Tony Munroe, Martin Quin Pollard and Yew Lun Tian; Adaptation of Lincoln Feast.

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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